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Asbestos Was Used as Fake Snow and Christmas Tree Decorations

A white Christmas may fill you with happy memories and warm family moments. So might the classic film The Wizard of Oz. However, before the dangers of asbestos were well known, both of these had one concerning thing in common: asbestos was used as a substitute for snow.

Fake snow has a history of dangerous substances. Before asbestos, decorators would use borax flakes or even ammonia because, like asbestos, it had a white and fluffy appearance.

While this is an interesting historical tidbit, it’s also an important warning for people even today. If you have been using Christmas decorations that have been passed down from generation to generation since the mid 20th century, there is a chance they could be contaminated with asbestos.

In addition to the Wizard of Oz, it’s recorded that asbestos was also used as fake snow in Citizen Kane, considered by many critics to be the greatest film ever produced. 

Why is this so important? Asbestos is a known carcinogen directly causing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lungs. Even small traces of exposure to asbestos have been linked to cases of mesothelioma. 

In fact, while we know of the well-documented severe dangers of asbestos, it is still not completely banned in the United States. Some products that still utilize asbestos include car parts and construction materials. Traces of asbestos have even been found in cosmetic products that include talc.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Belluck & Fox can help. Reach out to our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation.

Update on Banning Asbestos in the United States

Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of most people that are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and is linked to the deaths of approximately 40,000 Americans a year. Those deaths are caused by lung cancer, asbestosis, cancer of the larynx, and ovarian cancer.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen, and is not banned in the United States. The importing of asbestos into the United States has actually increased in recent years. Asbestos is found in houses in insulation and multiple products have asbestos in them.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 is a bill that will ban asbestos importation into the United States. The bill has been named for Alan Reinstein, the late husband of Linda Reinstein who died of malignant mesothelioma. Linda Reinstein is one of the co-founders of Asbestos Disease Awareness Foundation who has been working tirelessly for banning asbestos for many years. 

According to the ADAO website, the bill would:

  • Ban importation and use of asbestos and asbestos containing products within one year of enactment. 
  • Require that Chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms would need to eliminate the use of asbestos and convert to non-asbestos technology following a transition period.
  • Establish a new Right-to-Know program to require anyone who has imported, processed and distributed asbestos to report and disclose to the public how much asbestos has been in U.S. commerce, where and how it has been used, and who has been exposed.
  • Require the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a comprehensive study of risks presented by “legacy” asbestos used in buildings constructed decades ago but still present in millions of residences, businesses, factories, public buildings, and schools.
  • Stringently control the presence of asbestos contaminants in consumer products and construction materials.
  • Apply to the hazardous Libby Amphibole form of asbestos, found in attic insulation in millions of homes.

This bill was advanced out of the Committee on Energy and Commerce by a bipartisan vote on November 19th. The next step is to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. During these divisive partisan political times this is a very important step toward the goal of passing this bill into law.

As we pause this week to give thanks for our blessings it is also a time to reflect. For the mesothelioma community it is a time to be thankful for the support of tireless advocates for all their work on making banning asbestos in the United States closer to reality.  The work of a few to benefit all. Thank you for trying to make this world a safer, healthier planet.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed, please reach out to Belluck & Fox for a free consultation. With laws and information available to patients changing all the time, we can be the experts that help you find justice.

U.S. Company Recalls ATVs Shipped Overseas Due to Asbestos-Containing Parts

Although many Americans believe asbestos is banned in this country, the fact is that it is not. While organizations and foundations fight for a global ban on the toxic mineral, the U.S. is one of the last holdouts. U.S. vehicle manufacturers can still use asbestos-containing materials in some products, but few other countries still allow that practice.

Polaris Industries, a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of ATVs and snowmobiles, had to recall nearly 35,000 all terrain vehicles for violating the asbestos ban in Australia, Europe and New Zealand, according to a June 19 article in the Seattle Times. The vehicles included nearly a dozen different ATV models sold in those countries since Dec. 31, 2003.

No Polaris recalls are expected in the United States and Canada since there are no bans in place regarding asbestos use in brake pads and other parts.

Although asbestos has been identified as a human carcinogen, and exposure to the mineral can lead to mesothelioma and other diseases, it has been used for decades by U.S. manufacturers in building construction materials as well as in vehicles in brake pads and clutches. Since the 1980s, asbestos has not been used in building materials.

Mesothelioma is a unique and rare form of cancer, typically affecting the lining of the lungs. Before doing any work on a vehicle, assume asbestos is present and consider taking it to a certified mechanic who understands the dangers of asbestos and follows proper safety procedures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

In its brochure, “Current Best Practices for Preventing Asbestos Exposure Among Brake and Clutch Repair Workers,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that some automotive brakes and clutches in use today may contain asbestos, and as a result, anyone who repairs or replaces them may be exposed to asbestos dust. There are mandatory measures that employers must implement for automotive work, but the EPA encourages home mechanics to be cautious.

As a best practice, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that mechanics should assume all brakes have asbestos-type shoes and use the “wet wipe method” during work on the parts. The method involves using a spray bottle of water to wet all brake and clutch parts. The brakes can then be wiped clean with a cloth. Brake and clutch dust can be seen when a brake disk, drum, clutch cover, or the wheel is removed from a car, truck, or other equipment.

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, with a mission to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and to work towards a global asbestos ban, reports that the United States is the last western industrial nation not to ban asbestos and that just last year asbestos consumption in the U.S. was approximately 340 metric tons.

The ADAO posted the following message on its website on June 2 to encourage the public to take action by signing a petition to have the EPA ban asbestos.

“The EPA has put decades worth of time and dollars into research asbestos — they have all the data they need to ban this killer completely — without any loopholes or exceptions that allow greedy corporations to keep using it.

Rather than spending more years and more money to determine what we already know to be true, we urge the EPA to heed existing data BAN ASBESTOS NOW!”

Close to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The cancer is highly aggressive and there is no cure.

Photo Credit: Polaris Industries

If you have been suffering from asbestos-related diseases, our asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox can certainly help. We have locations at AlbanyRochester, NYC and Woodstock.