Home News Hollywood Hollywood and Malignant Mesothelioma-The History of Asbestos Use in Films

Hollywood and Malignant Mesothelioma-The History of Asbestos Use in Films


This post explores the instances of malignant mesothelioma (using Asbestos and related products) in the history of Hollywood. Before we make you understand the above term(s), let’s grab a few quick details on it.

Most of you might not agree, but the first commercial use of asbestos reported to have started as early as in 1878. After constant use of the mineral, the first case of malignant mesothelioma (a form of lung cancer caused due to asbestos) was diagnosed in 1935. Well, nobody knew that the overuse of asbestos can produce disastrous results, which continued unnoticed until 1935.

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Now, at this time, the US government came into action with some strict rules and regulations regarding the carcinogenic effects of the mineral. The authorities soon placed a moratorium on the use and production of asbestos and related products. Still, it’s manufacturing continued into the 1980s.

malignant mesothelioma
malignant mesothelioma | Image Credit: Earn This

The ailment related to asbestos exposure can transform into a fully blown malignant mesothelioma that can devastate your lungs. Professionals who belong to Hollywood (film industry) also seem to be at risk, especially those who have been previously diagnosed with mesothelioma due to a long and unknown history of over exposure to the mineral and related products.

In general, asbestos is known to be a hazardous mineral and is prone to attack your lungs after it gets transformed into fibers. It happens after someone who’s working in such an environment inhales the mineral which gets accumulated in the lungs, causing disruptions.

Malignant Mesothelioma- It takes 20 years to develop the full blown disease

Let’s introduce you with the term before proceeding further. Malignant Mesothelioma is a serious ailment where malignant cancer cells basically constitute thin layer of tissue that may cover the abdomen, lung or chest wall.

Ed Lauter died of malignant mesothelioma | Image Credit: Realty Today

There can be a plethora of ways in which the disease can form, depending on the type of cell where it began. The main cause of such an ailment is due to the consistent exposure of asbestos and related products.

Well, it generally takes a span of 20 years for malignant mesothelioma to develop after continuous exposure to asbestos.

Use of Fake Snow in Hollywood Films

Do you know how the filmmakers in early 1930s used to create snow and related effects? Well, they would probably employ cotton batting to create the desired snowy effects.

After consistent use of cotton batting for some more years, another interesting thing surfaced. A firefighter appeared into the picture and suggested not to use cotton as it can prove a fire hazard. This person, simultaneously suggested to use asbestos instead, as a safer alternative.

All this happened in the year 1928, when nobody knew much about the hazards of asbestos. Unfortunately, the idea to use asbestos instead of the cotton was picked by filmmakers. They instantly started using and marketing the mineral between 1930-1950s.

They were unknown towards its carcinogenic capacity and continued to market the mineral with names like Snow Drift and Pure white. This is how it became the most popular way to produce artificial snow in films.

First Application of Asbestos in Hollywood Films

The first application of asbestos to create artificial snow was surfaced in a 1939 film- Wizard of Oz. You can feel the presence of asbestos (in the movie) that was blown on the star cast in a scene filmed in poppy fields. Not only this, another film titled- Holiday Inn (1942) showcased how asbestos created snow was made to blow around the entire cast of the movie.

wizard of oz| Image Credit: YouTube

Use of Asbestos on Film Sets- Leading to Malignant Mesothelioma

The first commercial use of snow was highlighted as chemical snow in the form of Foamite in 1946. However, as per Helen Robinson (Life Magazine writer), asbestos was primarily used to dress some other parts on the film sets.

On the same pattern, another film titled Goldfinger (a Bond film) was enough to produce malignant mesothelioma effects that was screened in 1964. It showed how asbestos was used to create special effect piping and boards.

The other use of asbestos and related products was used by CBS Network facilities. Ed Lauter, who continued to work on such a site suffered the loss of his life from malignant mesothelioma.



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