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Asbestos Canvas

Asbestos in Canvas Products and Other Insulation Materials

One of the advantages of asbestos is the fact that, while a mineral, it can easily be woven like cloth to create textiles, such as canvas. Asbestos canvas is highly durable and fire resistant. It was used in any number of industrial or military applications in which fire was deemed to be a hazard, but its primary application was insulating boilers and steam pipes. Asbestos canvas was also widely used in movie theaters in the early part of the 20th century to make the fireproofing curtains which hung on the walls of theaters.

Although durable, asbestos canvas was not totally indestructible. When the fabric would wear due to weather, fire, or simply age, it could become brittle, and the asbestos became friable, releasing fibers into the environment.

Asbestos canvas was produced by a wide range of manufacturers, including Owens-Corning, the H.K. Porter Company, and many others. It was manufactured in the United States, Britain, France, Italy and other countries, and was often, if not always, produced using Canadian chrysotile asbestos.

Asbestos Canvas Products Containing Asbestos

The following partial list of asbestos canvas products were known to contain asbestos:

Product Name Start Year End Year
H.K. Porter Canvas
Johns Manville Asbestos Canvas

Hazards Associated with Asbestos Canvas Products

Workers who mined the asbestos for asbestos canvas, those who ran milling and processing machines to weave asbestos canvas, and those who worked directly with the resulting canvas product such as steamfitters, plumbers and boiler repairmen are at particular risk of developing asbestos-related diseases as a result of their direct exposure to the material. Theater workers and maintenance men who moved, cleaned and installed asbestos canvas curtains were exposed as well, since they directly handled the material. Movie audiences may have also been at risk although simply being in the same room with an intact curtain would not have placed viewers at a very high risk. If the curtains were damaged or worn then the risk would have been much higher.



Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

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