Before the days of computer animation, asbestos was used to make the snowy scenes of the Wizard of Oz. Originally, cotton was used as snow in the film until a firefighter on set thought it would be safer to use a material that is not as prone to the spread of fire. Since asbestos is fire resistant and could be made to look relatively like snow, they made the switch.
Not only was asbestos raining from the sky on set, the Wicked Witch’s broom and Scarecrow’s outfit were also made from the material.
Lorillard Tobacco Company introduced the “Micronite” filter on Kent cigarettes in the 1950s. The Micronite filter was marketed as a “pure, dust-free, completely harmless material that is so safe, so effective, it actually is used to help filter the air in operating rooms of leading hospitals.” In addition to these claims, Kent also ironically advertised cigarettes with the Micronite filter to give “greater protection than any other cigarette.”
After World War II, surgeons began using asbestos surgical thread to close wounds. Because of its strength and durability, it seemed like the perfect use for the material at the time. Although asbestos thread is not used surgically anymore, asbestos cloth and yarn are still produced and sold.
These unusual uses for asbestos were done despite medical, scientific, government, industrial, and company knowledge dating back to the late 1800s that breathing asbestos dust was hazardous.