Asbestos in Crock Pots and Other Appliances
Prior to a general ban on most asbestos products that took effect in 1979, many common household appliances, including crock pots, contained significant amounts of asbestos insulation. In these common kitchen appliances, the asbestos was located in two places: the lining between the inner and outer pot and around the power cord. The purpose of the former was to retain heat, while the latter served to prevent electrical fires.
Asbestos used in electrical appliances was usually of two kinds. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, was the most common variety of asbestos used. While chrysotile is still toxic, exposure to it is less likely to cause cancer. The fibers, when inhaled however, can cause abrasions on internal lung surfaces. The resulting build-up of scar tissue that reduces oxygen capacity is known as asbestosis, and is by far the most common asbestos disease.
Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, is extremely toxic and strongly implicated in the development of asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma (cancer of the viscera). Like microscopic spears, these hard fibers drill their way through organ tissue from the inside out when ingested, causing chronic inflammation that oncology researchers now say causes cells to mutate and become malignant.
Unfortunately, crocidolite was also an excellent electrical insulator, and was likely to have been used in appliance power cords, particularly appliances which were designed and expected to be left plugged in and turned on for long periods of time.
Hazards Associated with Crock Pot Products
As long as the lining of the crock pot and the power cords are undamaged, there is little risk of exposure. However, cords and linings from old appliances manufactured prior to 1980 that are broken or otherwise damaged should be treated with extreme caution. Appliance repair personnel, those working in the factories producing these consumer goods, and homemakers working with old crock pots, were all at risk for asbestos exposure.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)