In the UK, asbestos was used heavily in the construction industry up to the 1980s. Around this time the health risks of asbestos became more publically known with the use of asbestos decreasing until it was eventually banned in 1999.

Whilst you may expect to find asbestos in buildings pre-dating the year 2000, there are many places you may be surprised to find asbestos:

Bowling balls

In the 1960s and 1970s many bowling balls contained asbestos. Asbestos fibres were used as filler to reduce costs, increase strength and impact resistance and decrease shrinkage.

Workers involved in the production of bowling balls were at risk of developing asbestos related conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening and asbestos related lung cancer. In fact, in America, a claim was brought against a manufacturer of bowling balls, Ebonite Ltd, by a former employer, Mr Gentry.

Gentry had worked for the company as an inspector for three and a half years and suffered exposure to asbestos and fibreglass during the production process. He went on to suffer with asbestosis, a lung disease which causes scarring of the lung tissues.

It is not only people involved in the production of bowling balls who were put at risk of developing asbestos related conditions. Workers in shops that sold bowling balls were also at risk when drilling finger holes into the balls. Although the holes would be cleaned out after drilling, there is no guarantee that asbestos fibres would not also be released from the holes, onto the fingers of the bowler.

Thankfully, these days bowling balls are made of plastic or polyurethane and so there is no risk of exposure to asbestos.


Reading books is generally seen as a low risk activity, apart from possibly getting a paper cut, you would not think that you could put your health at risk. However, some books have been found to be bound with asbestos materials and there are reports that people working as bookbinders in the mid 1900s were exposed to asbestos.

First editions of Fahrenheit 451, a book by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953, had asbestos binding. The book is about a society where books are outlawed and any found are burnt. The special, asbestos binding provided fireproofing to the books so they could not be set alight.

Whilst many thought this gimmick was a nice touch, they were not aware that they had been endangering their health when reading the book. Although the amount of asbestos someone might be exposed to from the book binding would only be small, this could still result in them suffering with an asbestos related condition years down the line.

While asbestosis is caused by heavy exposure to asbestos, such as that experienced when workers lagged pipes, mesothelioma, the incurable asbestos cancer, can be caused by minimal exposure to asbestos.. It is possible that someone handling an asbestos covered book could be at risk of developing mesothelioma.

These days asbestos has been banned in the UK and with the affects of asbestos now well known this kind of exposure should not happen again in the UK.

Vintage items

Vintage is all the rage, with people scouring charity shops and second hand stores for home ware items from yesteryear. Asbestos was not only used in the construction industry, it was hailed as a miracle product and was used in anything that might require fire or heat proofing.

As you may expect, asbestos was used in hairdryers, irons, toasters and heaters, particularly in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. You might be surprised to know that asbestos was also used in Christmas decorations.

Due to it’s flaky, fibrous, white appearance, asbestos was used as fake snow in Christmas decorations in the 1950s and 1960s. Vintage decorations should be handled with care and if you are not sure whether something contains asbestos you should seek an expert opinion.

It is extremely important to be aware of asbestos and where it could be found. As shown in the examples above, it is not only the construction industry that needs to be vigilant to prevent people being exposed to asbestos.

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos claim please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.

Share Button