In 2015, we’re well aware of the dangers associated with asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Decades ago, the mineral was used in cigarettes, insulation and roofing due to its flame-resistant capabilities, but it also had more commercial uses.
The light, white and fluffy nature of the fibers made it perfect for creating artificial snow. Prior to the banned uses, asbestos snow could be purchased by the box to sprinkle around the house during the Christmas season. Other decorations, like wreaths and trees, were covered in this dangerous snow to create the appearance of a light dusting.
Its use as snow spread to Hollywood, appearing in many movies including two iconic scenes. In “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wicked Witch of the West creates a field of poppies to lull Dorothy and her friends to sleep, only to be thwarted by Glinda who sends snow to cover the poppies and diminish the effects. Slowly, Dorothy and her friends wake up covered in asbestos snow.
A seasonal classic, ‘White Christmas,’ also contains a famous scene plagued by the carcinogen. As the cast sings the titular song, the stage doors open to reveal it’s finally snowing at the ski lodge for Christmas. Giant, fluffy flakes fall down and create a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, this wonderland is made up of dangerous asbestos fibers spread by the hands of stage workers above.
For too long, manufacturers hid the risks of asbestos products and exposed many people to the cancer-causing mineral. By the time regulations started to form in the 1970s and 1980s, millions were exposed in the workplace and at home. By failing to disclose the danger, these companies allowed the general public to be put at risk for developing an asbestos-related cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
In 2015, we recognize the long-term effects of asbestos exposure and work for justice for all those who developed an asbestos-related disease decades later.
[This post originally appeared on gpwlaw.com]
- Associated Press, “Asbestos ‘snow’ used by movie-makers,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1981). [Link]