Asbestos in Iron Rests and Other Household Products
Iron rests were once an indispensable item for homemaker’s who ironed the family clothing. These were flat objects, not dissimilar to the burner pads used on stovetops that were made of a rigid material covered with asbestos fabric, where a red-hot iron could be safely placed without risking fire. Iron rests were also found in commercial establishments such as laundries and hotels.
Iron rests were generally made with the most common variety of commercial asbestos, chrysotile asbestos. One of the leading manufacturers of asbestos iron rests was Craftmade Products Company, a division of Norton Accessories Manufacturers of New York prior to 1960. This company is no longer in operation.
Hazards Associated with Iron Rest Products
The workers who made iron rests in the factory were exposed to raw asbestos as part of the fabrication process, and the family members of those workers were at risk from secondary exposure when workers would bring home asbestos-contaminated work clothes. A larger group of “at risk” individuals were homemakers and their family members, as well as laundry workers and their family members, who used iron rests as part of their domestic and work routines. New and intact iron rests would have posed little danger, as the asbestos fibers were safely encapsulated in the surrounding material. However, over time as iron rests experienced wear and tear and were repeatedly exposed to the hot irons, the asbestos material would fray and become “friable”. This meant that the individual asbestos fibers could work free of the iron rest material and become airborne. Inhaled airborne asbestos particles are the principal cause of malignant mesothelioma and other serious asbestos-related conditions.Sources
Asbestorama. "Asbestos Iron Rest" (photo and description). http://www.flickr.com/photos/asbestos_pix/3583756428/in/photostream/ . Retrieved 7 January 2011.
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)