Health warning that vintage Christmas decorations could contain asbestos

| by Clinton Moore

Even though Christmas is a time of year filled with joy and merriment, several Britons could be exposing themselves to asbestos by putting up old Christmas decorations. It is being reported that vintage baubles and other ornaments could contain this dangerous mineral because in the 1940s, fake snow was made from pure asbestos. When decorations are put up, asbestos could be disturbed causing deadly particles to be spread throughout unwitting households. Therefore, the UK Asbestos Training Association, the trade body responsible for safety from this material in homes and workplaces, is advising people to throw away old Christmas items that may contain fake snow. Here at Sperion, we typically assist commercial and industrial properties with their asbestos removal needs. But it is a big concern that normal households could be at risk from such a seemingly harmless thing.

Dangers of vintage decorations

More than fifty years ago, products such as Pure White, White Magic and Snow Drift were commonly used by manufacturers of Christmas decorations including wreathes, statues and baubles. While production of this white powder stopped when the Second World War started, as it was needed to insulate ships and aircraft instead, certain decorations still pose a threat. Numerous households keep hold of these treasured festive ornaments and put them up every year, as they are much more authentic and attractive than modern alternatives. However, they could potentially pose a serious health risk.

Risk from asbestos at Christmas

Craig Evans, manager of the UK Asbestos Training Association, said: "In the 1930s and 1940s asbestos was used in abundance to create fake snow - products called Pure White, White Magic and Snow Drift were common in department stores and even in people's homes. “Households up and down the country may still have decorations from that era that they keep in the loft until Christmas comes round. "People might be completely oblivious to the fact that each year they could be running the risk of inhaling deadly asbestos fibres from their old decorations. “What's more, it's estimated around 1.5 million homes in the UK have asbestos in them and if people are storing Christmas decorations in their lofts underneath loose-fill asbestos insulation it could be dropping onto them.”

Identifying and then dealing with asbestos removal

Asbestos dust may settle on Christmas trees and other decorations, which will then spread through households when being put up or taken down. Evans goes on to say that it is impossible to know just how many people could potentially be exposing themselves to asbestos each Christmas, but he did have some advice. “Our warning is to replace any antique decorations that have fake snow on them with new decorations,” he said. “They might not look quite as nice but they are guaranteed to be safe. "Anyone who thinks they have asbestos-laced decorations should contact their local authority which can advise on how to dispose of them in the proper way. If you are concerned about your own Christmas decorations, contact Sperion, as we can provide help and advice about asbestos removal and disposal.

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