Surprising past uses of asbestos (and what to do if you’re exposed)

Commonly used in building and construction, asbestos has also been used in surprising ways, including in everyday products.

When we think of asbestos, it is usually the danger of its use and exposure that comes to mind. Nevertheless, asbestos was once considered an advantageous mineral as it was inexpensive, easy to work with, durable and heat resistant.

Asbestos was commonly used in building and construction projects however, there are several surprising ways in which asbestos was utilised in everyday products.


Asbestos was a key material in the production of hairdryers. The asbestos created an insulated, heatproof layer within the hairdryer to prevent the appliance from overheating.

In addition to handheld hairdryers, asbestos was used for the same purpose in the large hood hairdryers frequently used at salons.

Fake snow

Chrysotile, otherwise known as white asbestos, was commonly used as fake snow and sold with names such as “White Magic” and “Pure White”.

In the popular movie, The Wizard of Oz, the scene in which snow was magically created by Glinda the Good Witch and covered Dorothy was actually asbestos. Asbestos was used on film sets as it would not catch fire under the bright studio lighting.

Medical thread

Due to the durability and flexibility of asbestos, it was used in the production of medical thread. The asbestos fibres were woven into the thread which would then be used for stitching in surgical procedures.

Gas marks

To protect people from gas bomb attacks in the Second World War, over 100 million gas masks were made for civilians using asbestos fibres.

Despite being created as a tool for protection, it can be said that the masks may have caused more harm than if they had not been made in the first place.

What happens if I am exposed to asbestos?

It is incredible to reflect on the widespread use of asbestos in the past and acknowledge the effect that this has had on thousands of people’s health and lives.

Asbestos has been completely banned in Australia since December 2003, however, there continue to be instances of asbestos being imported into the country. Most recently, this has occurred where manufactured items which other countries consider to be “asbestos-free” contain small amounts of the deadly fibre.

At Brave Legal, we continue to see exposure from people doing DIY projects on homes made before 1985 and older generations of workers and their families who were exposed in the workplace, often from the power stations in the La Trobe Valley.

Bree Knoester has extensive experience in asbestos compensation law and can provide support and advice following a diagnosis from asbestos exposure.

Contact us on 03 9070 9816 to speak to our experienced and compassionate team.

This article is co-authored by Legal Assistant, Lucy French.


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