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Wizard of Oz Asbestos: Hollywood’s Use of Asbestos on Set

Before the dangers of asbestos were widely known, it was found virtually everywhere – from houses and cars to roadworks and even movie studios. In fact, Hollywood was known to use loose asbestos in many movies during the 1920s – 1970’s, with production sets still using the deadly material even when word was getting out. This was because asbestos was cheap and could be used as both a fire suppressant and as believable snow, which saw asbestos being used in its most dangerous form. In this article, we take a look at Hollywood’s use of asbestos snow in movies, including the infamous Wizard of Oz asbestos scene.

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Asbestos snow in movies

 The most famous case: Wizard of Oz asbestos

The Wizard of Oz is a beloved classic, but did you know it was rife with asbestos use? Asbestos Wizard of Oz is said to have been found in everything from the broom handles to the entire costume the scarecrow wore, but the most dangerous form it appeared in was the field of snow, which saw loose asbestos spread on the ground – which is the most dangerous form of asbestos. It was during this time that people started becoming aware of the dangers of asbestos, however the studio decided to forge ahead with the use despite these warnings. During this scene, the characters are even seen dousing each other in the fibres, which are deadly if inhaled. In addition to asbestos, aluminium was also heavily used in actor’s makeup, which even caused one of the actors to be hospitalised due to poisoning.

 It’s a wonderful life

Much like the Wizard of Oz asbestos snow scene, the beloved Christmas movie ‘It’s a wonderful life’ also used the deadly material in a key scene. It’s alleged the industry standard snow used at the time was too loud, as it used painted cornflakes. Though scenes were usually dubbed over later, the movie’s director Frank Capra wanted to create a live recording. This prompted the special effects team to create fake snow using foamite, which was a mix of soap flakes, sugar and water. In the event that it would run out, the team had a backup option – asbestos and dolomite.

 Le Mans

 Though movies stopped using asbestos on production sets, it still had the tendency to turn up in other places – such as Steve McQueen’s racing suit on the movie ‘Le Mans’. Asbestos was commonly used in racing suits at the time, as it offers fire retardant properties. Steve McQueen would go on to die of asbestos related mesothelioma decades later, which he attributes to time on production sets. It’s likely his death was due to exposure from movies or time spent in the marines.

Holiday inn

The Holiday Inn is a Christmas movie loved by many, especially as the smash hit ‘White Christmas’ happens during a pivotal scene. However, what many people don’t know is that the fake snow used is made from is pure white asbestos – making the scene a little less romantic.

Interested to learn more?

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our article on asbestos Wizard of Oz: Hollywood’s Use of Asbestos on Set. If you think your home or business building may contain asbestos, be sure to get in touch with our asbestos removal company team as soon as possible to arrange an inspection. You can call us on 0412 314 588 or via our online form and one of our asbestos removal specialists will be in touch shortly.

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