Ironing Board Covers
Asbestos in Ironing Board Covers and Other Household Products
Ironing board covers were similar to iron rests and burner covers in that they provided a firm, heat-resistant surface on which to work. Made from any number of rigid materials with an asbestos lining sewn in, or made directly from asbestos cloth, these items were just one of several asbestos-containing household products that were commonly sold in retail stores before the 1960s. These items were also common in hotels and commercial laundries.
Since ancient times, asbestos has been considered a "miracle" substance. This was especially true from the mid-19th Century through the 1970s; asbestos fibers were not only fire-resistant, they also provided durability and offered protection from electric current as well as caustic and corrosive chemicals. As a result, asbestos found its way in to almost every industrial product as well as many household appliances and other products.
The most common type of asbestos, and the one used for ironing board covers, was white chrysotile. Most of this was mined in Libby, Montana prior to the 1980s by W.R. Grace & Company, which supplied many other industries as well.
Hazards Associated with Ironing Board Cover Products
The highest level of asbestos exposure associated with ironing board covers was undoubtedly suffered by the factory workers who labored to fabricate these consumer items, as they would have to work with raw asbestos fiber material and sew asbestos cloth, generally without adequate ventilation or respiratory protection. Homemakers, laundresses, and others who did large quantities of family or commercial laundry were also potentially exposed to asbestos fibers, particularly as the ironing board covers began to wear out over time. Thrifty homemakers in particular were at risk, as they would frugally continue to use a functional asbestos ironing board cover even as it became frayed and tattered. Loose asbestos material can easily escape from such damaged and worn asbestos fabric, and the fibers can then be inhaled. Inhalation of asbestos is the principal cause of developing malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)