Without a worldwide ban on asbestos, the global economy still produces and ships products that contain asbestos. Some of those products can make their way into homes and workplaces in unusual ways.
Asbestos use has a long history in many different industries and products. For example, companies produced insulation with asbestos, and the mineral was even used in fake snow for holiday decorations. While many of these companies have since stopped using asbestos, it can still be found in some places and products that may be surprising.
Asbestos in Major Appliances
Companies use asbestos because it is heat-resistant, durable and inexpensive. Studies of household appliances manufactured in Korea found that some large products used asbestos-containing materials until 2005. Some other household goods were produced with asbestos until 2007. These products may have been sold at retailers in the United States and may still be in use today along with other older appliances.
Belts in Clothes Dryers
A clothes dryer can heat up to 125 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit when it’s in use. Because of the high heat, dryer manufacturers used asbestos as insulation. Some dryers also had belts made with asbestos.
In most dryers, the belt turns the tub where the clothing is dried. Dryer belts must withstand the heat required to dry clothes, which led manufacturers to use asbestos.
While most dryer belts made in the United States today do not contain asbestos, those from other countries might. It’s best to check with the dryer’s manufacturer to find out where the belt originated.
Rope Gaskets in Ovens
Older ovens used rope gaskets made with asbestos fibers, which seal the door to the stove. These gaskets help hold in heat so food cooks evenly.
These rope gaskets are woven from different fibers, including asbestos. While most rope gasket manufacturers use fiberglass today, older ovens may have gaskets made of asbestos. Anyone living in an older home with an older oven may want to find out if their oven manufacturer used asbestos rope gaskets.
Asbestos in Exercise Equipment
Many people have spent time riding a bike, walking on a treadmill or using other exercise equipment. Surprisingly, some of these popular household products have asbestos-containing parts.
Bicycle Brake Pads
While many people know auto brakes have a history of asbestos use, some bicycle brakes have used it, too. In fact, a U.S. patent from 1979 shows the use of asbestos in bicycle brake pads, and a 1981 patent shows asbestos brake pads for exercise bicycles.
Research also shows asbestos in other bicycle parts, like seats, tires and frames. While some people believe asbestos is no longer used, researchers found some bicycle brakes had asbestos as recently as 2005.
Environmental exposure limits set an acceptable level of a toxin that someone can come in contact with before it may cause damage.
The same research shows that asbestos exposure from bicycle brakes was lower than the environmental exposure limits. Still, brakes manufactured outside the United States may be less safe. For peace of mind, bike riders may want to check with their bicycle manufacturer about where they sourced the components.
Drive Belts in Treadmills
Researchers have found asbestos in the motor or drive belt in some treadmills. The treadmill became popular in the 1960s and 1970s before facts about the dangers of asbestos became widely known.
Much like clothes dryers, treadmills rely on a belt connected to a motor. As that motor turns the belt, the walking surface moves. If an asbestos-containing drive belt becomes damaged or worn, it could release asbestos dust. Newer treadmills and drive belts likely do not have asbestos if manufactured in the United States.
It’s important to verify with the manufacturer to find out if your appliances and other household goods use asbestos-containing products. While many U.S. manufacturers no longer use asbestos in the products they produce, other countries still do.
With a global economy, products with asbestos components can find their way into your home. Damaged or worn asbestos products can put people at risk for asbestos exposure, leading to diseases like mesothelioma.
The use of asbestos will continue until all countries agree to a global ban. To help make a global asbestos ban possible, you can work with advocacy groups, like the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.