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Mitts & MIttens

Asbestos in Mitts, Mittens and Other Safety Equipment

Asbestos-lined mitts and mittens were used by many workers in high-temperature industries. These garments did an excellent job of protecting workers from getting burned while performing jobs under dangerous conditions involving heat and/or flames. Workers in these industries often wore entire suits of asbestos-based clothing as part of a comprehensive defense against heat and corrosion.

A relatively wide range of occupations used asbestos mitts and mittens for protective wear, including firefighters, furnace operators, iron workers, foundry workers, smelter workers, welders, steelworkers, glassmakers, and many others.

Protective mitts and mittens made after about 1980 are most likely made from non-asbestos substances, as growing public recognition of the dangers of asbestos inhalation spurred many producers of asbestos-based products to find less dangerous alternatives.

Hazards Associated with Mitts and Mittens

Studies have indicated that asbestos clothing in general resulted in a moderate to high level of asbestos fiber inhalation risk to workers in high heat industries, even when the clothing was in relatively good condition. The movement of the body against the clothing creates constant friction and wear on the clothes, and, as a result, loose fibers can enter the air where they could be very quickly inhaled. Similar studies have shown mittens and mitts to represent a fairly low share of asbestos exposure risk, most likely because the amount of asbestos fiber in these articles is low compared to other items of clothing.

Workers producing asbestos-based mitts and mittens, however, had the potential for being exposed to much higher levels of asbestos than normal during the production process. This is because they milled raw asbestos fibers into cloth and sewed the material, often in poorly ventilated work areas. In addition, mitts and mittens that were worn over a long period of time had a tendency to become worn or frayed from use and were more likely to release asbestos fibers into the air than mitts replaced more frequently.



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

Samimi BS, Williams AM. Occupational exposure to asbestos fibres resulting from use of asbestos gloves. Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1981;42:870–875. ( Retrieved 10 January 2011.

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