Asbestos in Pop Culture: Unveiling its Cultural Depictions and Impact

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Lights, camera…asbestos? While not the dreamiest, camera-ready topic, asbestos has found an unexpected place in pop culture. Beyond its industrial applications, asbestos and its associated health risks have woven themselves into various forms of media, from movies and TV shows to literature, art, and music. This unique blend of a hazardous substance and the creative world invites us to explore asbestos and its related diseases through a pop culture landscape.

Hollywood has both reflected and contributed to public awareness of environmental exposures to toxic chemicals, like asbestos. While not directly about asbestos, movies like A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich bring wrongful exposure cases to our screens.  In literature, asbestos and mesothelioma have crept into larger meaningful messages. In books like Haruki Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore, asbestos represents lurking threats, while in Change of Heart, written by Jodi Picoult, asbestos becomes a symbol of life and death decisions.

shallow focus photography of books person using silver and black laptop computer lighted red text signage

As for art and music, asbestos is present on the scene as well. Artist Joseph Cornell uses asbestos as a medium for his creations – posing questions about safety versus artistic expression. The famous band, Radiohead has a song – House of Cards – that features lines referencing asbestos’s toxic effects and society’s unwillingness to face the asbestos issue head-on.

Aside from the actual topic of asbestos being explored in pop culture, the substance itself was used on many movie sets. The 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz, utilized asbestos as fake snow in the poppy field scene where Dorothy and her friends fall asleep. The 1954 Musical, White Christmas, also features a scene with asbestos snow as Bing Crosby sings the titular song. The James Bond film, Goldfinger used asbestos boards in its set construction. Vietnam war film, Full Metal Jacket was filmed at Beckton Gas Works in London. As the crew was filming, it was determined that the complex would be demolished due to the high concentration of asbestos on the site.

While asbestos is featured in pop culture across many mediums, its most destructive place is in the real world. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, help starts here. Call our office today or fill out a free case evaluation to get started.