Asbestos wick was used for lamps and candles as far back as 4000BC, and was commonly in use until as recent as the 1970’s. You can find asbestos in wicks even today, for old oil lamps where the user might unknowingly use old asbestos wick found.
Asbestos in wicks – what are the facts?
Asbestos wick could previously be found in various products. It is composed of anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent asbestos, including chrysotile (white asbestos) and tremolite. The exact concentration of asbestos in a particular variety of wick depended on what it was intended to be used for. It was originally produced for a wide variety of different industrial, commercial, and home applications. This type of wick was so widely used because of the natural fire resistant properties that the presence of the asbestos provided.
Common home applications was asbestos wick for kerosene heaters and oil lamps. Asbestos in wicks was also used in the manufacturing of several different building materials that served as insulation for pipes. This wick was also made into coverings for boilers and furnaces as well as other heat producing machinery and equipment. Asbestos wick could also be made into yarn and ropes that could then be used in the making of other fire resistant products.
Asbestos in wicks is generally quite safe unless the asbestos wick become frayed or broken. But wick poses danger when it tends to break down as it decomposes with age. This makes it possible for asbestos fibers to become airborne and potentially inhaled, increasing the risk for lungcancer and mesothelioma decades later. Any residue from burned wicks may also contain asbestos fibers, and will easily become airboure, and inhalable. Today, asbestos wick is no longer manufactured, but its possible to come across it at online actions and foreign shopping sites.
Its also quite common to find old asbestos wick in storage, for example in old family vacation cottages where oil lamps might be used for that special cozy atmospehere.
Discard any old wick found, and rinse the oil lamp with water to get rid of any lingering asbestos residue.