Asbestos fibers were once thought the perfect material to make artificial snow. Christmas time saw the mass distribution of the white, fibrous asbestos crystals in ornaments, statues, Christmas wreaths and other decorations. While the use of asbestos has decreased in the United States, the countless products made from asbestos can still be found in homes and buildings all over the country. Consumers need to be aware of the potential for harm when using older products. Before using the ornaments handed down from your parents or grandparents, you should check to make sure they do not contain deadly asbestos.
Vintage ornaments from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s are particularly likely to contain asbestos. World War II actually decreased the use of asbestos for Christmas ornaments as so much of the material was funneled into military applications. Any decoration of unknown origin should be considered suspect. Asbestos products are still manufactured throughout the world, despite the well-established danger posed by the material. It is cheap, versatile and durable, so manufacturers continue to place profit over the safety of consumers by using asbestos to manufacture goods.
Another asbestos danger is associated with Christmas time. Decorations are often stored in attics and presents may be hidden in attics or crawl spaces that contain asbestos. Areas of the house normally left undisturbed are used during the holiday season. Insulation fibers and other asbestos-containing substances may infiltrate your holiday celebration. If you have any older decorations with fake snow, they should probably be replaced with a safer alternative.
Source: The Telegraph, “Asbestos could lurk in vintage Christmas decorations,” 17 December 2014