Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate material with fibrous crystals. These crystals contain microscopic fibrils which, when released in the atmosphere through abrasion, are a health hazard. Most people know that asbestos used to be a common component of building materials, but it’s now associated with lung conditions, asbestosis, and cancer.

Different varieties of asbestos are banned in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. However, that’s not to say that all asbestos is prohibited. It’s also in more everyday items than you think.

Read on to discover where asbestos could possibly turn up. You can then be more aware of your purchasing decisions and choose products that are safe for your health and that of others.

1. Talcum Powder

When Eastern Texas mother Darlene Coker found out she was dying from mesothelioma, she accepted her fate but wanted to know why. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the membrane around the lungs and organs. It’s a rare form of cancer and one that mainly signifies exposure to asbestos. She hadn’t been — or so she thought.

With research, she identified her long-term use of talcum powder from Johnson & Johnson as the cause. Talc and asbestos were both mined natural products, and asbestos could contaminate talc, putting talcum powder users at risk.  

That’s when the truth came out. Records of tainted J&J talcum powder were found to exist as early as 1957 and even into the 2000s.

2. School Supplies

The next time you decide to purchase your children a new binder, dry erase markers, and crayons, be wary of the risk of buying new products with which you’re not familiar. In tests carried out by the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, everyday school supplies were found to contain traces of lead, asbestos, and potentially harmful chemicals.

Fortunately, the Education Fund followed up the test with a list of safe supplies parents could buy their children.  

Image from

Image from

3. Cosmetics

In a story published in USA Today, The Food and Drug Administration identified the presence of asbestos in the products of at least two makeup manufacturers: Justice and Claire’s. All products were recalled voluntarily, including talc-based products out of precaution.

4. Cigarettes

Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, with 70 of them known to cause, promote, or initiate cancer. However, some are worse than others. Fake cigarettes that were found for sale across the UK not only contained those same harmful chemicals, but arsenic, asbestos, rat droppings, and human faeces as well. The cigarettes were for sale at a heavily discounted price compared to regular brands on the market.  

5. Car Parts

You may ask: “Is asbestos still used in brake pads?” The next time you pull apart that old project car, spare a moment for your health. Car parts such as brake blocks, disk brake pads, gaskets, automatic transmission components, and clutch facings can all contain asbestos, especially the older ones. 

6. Potting Soil

Most people know that they should take care around potting soil due to the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, but that might not be the only health risk present. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there is a naturally occurring asbestos known as tremolite-actinolite found in vermiculite which is used in some fertilisers and potting soil. The mineral is visible as gold or silver flakes.

Use Safe Products

Humans and asbestos can coexist, so long as that asbestos is not released into the air. There are, however, many products that still contain it that can be harmful to your health. Always do your research on a new product before you try it to ensure it meets health and safety standards.