Here’s some food for thought when you sit down with the kids to watch the Wizard of Oz this Christmas. Take a closer look at those snowy scenes. Believe it or not, the fake snow was actually a toxic cloud of lethal asbestos exposure.
You may remember the poppy field scene when Glinda the Good Witch thwarts the sleep-inducing effect of the Wicked Witch’s poppies with snow. The snow falling on Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man was in fact 100% Chrysotile. Incredible, considering that the health hazards of asbestos had been known for years.
Chrysotile, or “white” asbestos, visually resembles real snow. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, artificial snow made from asbestos was sold under dozens of brand names such as “White Magic,” “Pure White,” and “Snow Drift.” You could spread it under your Christmas tree for that authentic snow drift look.
Although none of the principal actors in “The Wizard of Oz” are known to have died from any asbestos-related causes, it is sadly worth noting that Jack Haley Jr, an award-winning director, producer and the son of Jack Haley who played the Tin Man, is reported to have developed “respiratory failure” and died aged 67 in 2001. Could this have been mesothelioma from asbestos dust, unwittingly brought home by his father during the filming of The Wizard of Oz? We’ll never know.