Early reminder: The ghosts of holidays past may include asbestos
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Early reminder: The ghosts of holidays past may include asbestos

If you’re like a lot of other folks, you start digging out the holiday decorations early so that they can go up the first day of November — just as soon as the Halloween decor is down. There’s only about six short weeks to get ready, so we’re taking this time to remind people that they need to be careful if they intend to drag out any family heirlooms or antique ornaments this year for the holidays.

What’s the worry? There may be asbestos hiding in your family’s old ornament boxes. Asbestos is a natural product that was widely used in many commercial products prior to the end of the 1970s. Today, most people associate asbestos dangers with remodeling old homes, shipyards and factory jobs — but the stuff was actually used in all kinds of things, including holiday decorations.

What sort of holiday items may contain asbestos? Look for anything that involves “fake snow,” including old boxes where the fibers may have settled in the bottom after use. You should also be wary of any greenery items, like wreaths and trees, that have been designed to look as if they’re covered in snow. Even if those items were purchased after asbestos was banned in 1978, be wary if they were made overseas (where asbestos regulations are looser).

Keep this in mind: There is no safe amount of asbestos exposure. When those microscopic fibers get into someone’s lungs, they can develop into a serious problem decades later.

Anybody who suspects that they are suffering from lung disease or cancer caused by asbestos exposure should seek assistance right away. Depending on the circumstances, there may be funds available to help with treatment and your family’s needs.