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  • Writer's pictureTrieste Reading

Worrying about a white asbestos Christmas

Some of our most beloved Christmas decorations could actually be putting our health at risk. From the mid-1930s through the 1950s, asbestos was seen as a very versatile and harmless substance. Asbestos is known for its heat resistance and fire-proofing capabilities. As well as that, chrysotile asbestos is white which made it the perfect material to give Christmas decorations that “winter look”.

Today asbestos could be hiding in those vintage baubles, wreaths, and other festive ornaments that have been in the family for years. If your decorations are from before the 1950s, it may be worth retiring them or doing some more research.

Decorations with Asbestos

In the past, fake snow marketed as “Pure White, “White Magic” and Snow Drift” contained asbestos. The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance writes that, it was on the advice of a firefighter in the late 1920s to use chrysotile asbestos for fake snow instead of cotton batting because cotton was a mild fire risk.

This asbestos containing fake snow was sprinkled on trees, wreaths and ornaments. Although asbestos has not been used in decorations for decades, the oldest decorations that were passed down from one generation to the next may still contain small amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos in the Attic

Another concern with Christmas decorations is where they are stored. Asbestos may come into contact with your decorations if they are stored in the attic.


CBC News reports that as of 2008, there are an estimated 300,000 homes in Canada that have Zonolite insulation. Zonolite insulation is vermiculite that contains asbestos and is hazardous to people’s health. For many people who store their holiday decorations in the attic, this could be a concern. 

The Mesothelioma Center notes that, when people or decorations come out of the attic they may be sprinkled with dust particles, which may or may not contain asbestos from the insulation. These particles can then be spread throughout the home putting people, especially children, at risk.

Fake Snow in Film

Asbestos was once so popular that it was used as artificial snow in the film industry. The most famous use of asbestos snow during a movie was in “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939. It was used during the scene where snow falls on Dorothy and her friends, awakening them from a spell cast by the Wicked Witch of the West.


Another popular film from that era, Holiday Inn, showed signer Bing Crosby in the final scene with snow falling all around as he sang the song White Christmas.

The Mesothelioma Center notes that The Raybestos-Manhattan Corporation that made the product, even marketed the snow in 1940 with an advertisement that included: “It is safe snow for the holiday decorations.”

Well times have changed and we now know the dangers of asbestos. As you enjoy this Holiday season remember to be safe.

From our family to yours, we wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas this year!

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