Although the heyday of asbestos is long gone, these toxic minerals can unfortunately still be found in a wide variety of places and products, some of which you may be unaware of. While the asbestos-containing materials in buildings are usually old – which only facilitates exposure and makes the carcinogen considerably more hazardous – a surprisingly large number of new items may also be made or contaminated with asbestos. Because the minerals are generally processed prior to being added to products, fibers have microscopic dimensions and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Thereby, asbestos exposure can easily occur without your knowledge. It is essential to be well-informed about where asbestos might lurk in order to prevent exposure and for this reason, we have compiled a list of some of the most common items which could contain these carcinogenic minerals.
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Shortly after the health dangers of asbestos were officially recognized by multiple government agencies in the 1970s, stricter regulations have been enforced with the purpose of limiting its use, as well as exposure. However, asbestos is not entirely banned in the U.S. and the manufacturing of products which have historically contained the toxic minerals is still allowed. Even though asbestos has slowly but surely started to be replaced with safe and convenient building materials such as cellulose fibers or polyurethane foams, it continues to be added in various products due to its remarkable insulating properties.
Nevertheless, while recently erected buildings are less likely to have asbestos in their structure, the majority of houses constructed before the mid-1980s contain significant amounts of carcinogenic minerals, as asbestos was widely employed throughout the last century. Therefore, if your house is old, we strongly encourage you to get it tested for asbestos. While asbestos-containing building materials age, they become brittle and the risk of fibers being released into the air increases tremendously. Additionally, friable asbestos-containing materials such as boiler insulation or pipe lagging are even more dangerous, since fibers can be carried away by air and subsequently inhaled or swallowed.
While asbestos does not represent an ingredient per se, numerous cosmetic products contain talc, another naturally occurring mineral which is often found in the earth in close proximity to asbestos deposits. Consequently, contamination may easily happen during mining operations and even though talcum powder is thoroughly refined, asbestos particles cannot be completely removed. There are multiple scientific studies supporting the causal relation between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, as well as other malignant diseases when cosmetic products tainted with asbestos are regularly applied over a long period of time.
If one or more products you use have talc as an ingredient, it is highly recommended to research whether the talcum powder is asbestos-free. The minerals are often present in the following cosmetic products:
- baby powder
- feminine hygiene products
- shower products
- face masks
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and fibers can also taint drinking water if the source is located near large deposits. Moreover, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that asbestos used to be added in the cement pipes which transport water to communities all across the country as well in order to increase the material’s strength and durability. As cement ages and deteriorates, fibers are very likely to be released in the drinking water.
However, most water supply systems have strict standards and regulations to ensure the safety of drinking water and asbestos rarely represents a serious issue. According to EPA, the current permissible limit for asbestos in drinking water is 7 million fibers per liter and the contaminant level in the majority of cases is considerably below the maximum limit.
Even though asbestos is seldom used in household appliances nowadays, the carcinogen was a very popular insulating material until the 1980s. A lot of products have the tendency to overheat when in use for an extended period of time and thus, a solid layer of asbestos has proved to represent the perfect fireproofing solution for a considerable number of manufacturing companies during the 20th century. Therefore, you should mostly pay attention to old items produced before the 1980s, as their interior walls might be laden with asbestos. Some of the household appliances manufactured with these toxic minerals include:
- popcorn poppers
- slow cookers
Surprisingly, various imported toys and children’s products might also be contaminated with asbestos. In 2015, multiple crayons and toy crime scene kits made in China were discovered to contain significant amounts of carcinogenic minerals following a safety investigation conducted by the Environmental Working Group. Twenty-eight boxes of crayons were tested, four of which were revealed to contain tremolite or chrysotile asbestos, and in 2007, tests conducted by the same non-profit organization confirmed the presence of asbestos in two crime scene kits, also imported from China.
Because asbestos is not banned in countries such as India or China, where a great number of toys are manufactured, the risk of contamination is very high. The following brands of crayons and toy crime scene kits were found to be tainted with asbestos, but other similar products which have not yet been tested might contain the minerals as well:
- Saban Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons
- Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crayons
- Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons
- Amscan Crayons
- EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit
- Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit
The practical properties of asbestos have been exploited by the automotive industry as well until the 1980s and while the carcinogen is rarely employed in the manufacturing process of car components today, old vehicles may pose a serious threat to your health. Repairing or changing asbestos-containing automotive parts is particularly dangerous, as the disturbance of such products usually leads to fibers being released into the air.
Thus, if you suspect one or multiple components of your car might contain asbestos, it is better to have a professional attend to – or better yet, replace – it in order to avoid exposure. Automotive components which are known to have been made with asbestos include:
- brake shoes, pads, and rotors
- auto body parts made of fiberglass or plastic
- hood liners
- engine components