Asbestos is a dangerous material to be used and it is almost impossible to believe that not long ago, it was used to make fake snow.
Till the 1920s, Hollywood film sets used cotton to make fake snow but in 1928 it was pointed out that there are safety hazards regarding cotton as it can catch fire easily. Hence, asbestos was used instead. At that time, it was not known that asbestos was a risk factor for an aggressive form of cancer known as mesothelioma. However, it was made known around that time but after many years, asbestos was used, nevertheless.
The famous brands for the material were “Pure White” and “Snow Drift.” They were popular because they were fire-resistant and looked more realistic than cotton or other materials. The most famous use of this material can be seen in “The Wizard of Oz” scene where snow falls on Dorothy and her friends, waking them up from a spell cast by the Wicked Witch of the West.
In the early 1940s, asbestos was no longer used as snow. This is because important quantities of it were used during World War 2 to fireproof Navy ships, and by 1950, a sprayable foam, with ingredients that consisted of foamite, water, sugar, and soap, was being used instead. Experts still believe that it was mixed in these materials too.
“Asbestos was once marketed as artificial snow and sprinkled on trees and wreaths and ornaments. Although those products have not been produced for many years, the oldest decorations that were passed down from one generation to the next may still have small amounts of asbestos,” Asbestos.com notes.
This matter caught real attention in 2009, when Tony Rich, an industrial hygienist, and anti-asbestos activist posted photos of the vintage product on photo-sharing platform Flickr, under the monicker Asbestorama.