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Written on 26th June 2017 by Laura Magson

The use of asbestos has thankfully been banned in the UK for a number of years. However, it was widely used in the 19th and 20th centuries due to its heat resistant properties. 

When you think of what asbestos was used for, you probably associate it with pipe insulation and the construction of buildings. It is true that it was widely used in this manner, but it was also used in a number of surprising ways.

The asbestos insoles

Albert’s Asbestos Insoles claimed to ‘make your feet feel happy’. Apparently, ‘callouses can be peeled right off, bunions are reduced and the inflammation drawn out, and the bad smelling of sweaty perspiring feet will disappear immediately’.

The asbestos shoe

Perhaps the insoles could be used in ‘The Original Moulders’ Asbestos Shoe’. This stylish looking footwear is promoted as ‘union made’ and ‘fireproof’.


Incredibly, there was once a toothpaste that used asbestos fibres as the abrasive, in order to help remove stains from teeth. Apparently, it was ‘dandy for your teeth’.

Hair dryers

Asbestos was a cheap and readily available fire retardant. As the heating element inside hair dryers was a fire hazard, they often contained asbestos insulation.

Older hair dryers that are still in use may therefore pose a risk to anyone still using them. Their age would make it likely that the asbestos in the insulation has become friable, meaning that the individual asbestos fibres can easily break free from the surrounding material and be inhaled.

Fake snow

Chrysotile asbestos was used to make a fake snow product that was commonly used as a Christmas decoration. This was also used on the set of the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

This was attractive, as it was not a fire risk like many other products used in Christmas decorations.

Gas masks

In Britain about twenty five million military ‘General Service Respirators’ were manufactured between 1935 and 1942 and those produced after 1937 contain crocidolite. About three million ‘Light respirators ’ were produced after 1942 until about 1965 and some of them can also contain crocidolite.

Civilian gas masks produced between about 1937 and 1942 normally contain chrysotile, although some can contain crocidolite.

In 2013 the Joint Union Asbestos Committee warned that, if any school owns or has been loaned World War II gas masks to be used in displays or during course work in class, these should be removed immediately.

Thankfully, these products are no longer on general sale. However, some of them may still be in existence.  If you have an asbestos containing product in your home, you should have it checked by an asbestos specialist to ensure that it is safe.