Retro Asbestos/Twin Towers Ad. The Black Irony Coughs Itself Up.

One of Copyranter’s readers found this disturbing old-skool ad for asbestos, featuring the former World Trade Center.

…judging by the look and type, I’d say is circa 1970s-mid80s. Copy reads: “Asbestos contains fire, cannot burn and holds up after metal and glass have melted down, giving vital time for people to escape.” Also, note the tagline. [When life depends on it, you use asbestos].
The ad is from a Canadian company, Asbestos Corporation Limited. Surprised they’re still operating and haven’t been sued into a pile of dust.

It hits me very hard personally: my Father has asbestosis in his lungs from 37 years of pipe-fitter work for a big DuPont chemical plant. The company’s plant physicians kept his condition a secret from him for many, many years.

…And now you know why corporations are awesome! — BEN POPKEN

ASBESTOS: What Can’t It Not Do? [Copyranter]


Edit Your Comment

  1. WV.Hillbilly says:

    On the other hand, if they hadn’t removed the asbestos, the towers may not have collapsed.

    Some guys like breasts, I like asbestos.

    • DangerousLiberal says:

      @WV.Hillbilly: Indeed, the proper application of the asbestos-based fire resistant material to the steel members of the building may have helped keep the buildings up longer, if not preventing their collapse. The Port Authority chose to ignore NYC fire and building codes, because they could–they are a bi-state authority subject to no city regulation. It’s a shame that people died mining and working with asbestos, just as its a shame that its inadequate use cost people their lives in fires.

  2. statolith says:

    I’m loving the different possible meanings of “Asbestos contains fire”.

  3. Jiminy Christmas says:

    The WTC was completed in 1977, so that would put the ad sometime after that. Asbestos fireproofing/insulation was banned in the US starting in 1973, so the ad was likely only for a Canadian market.

    And about that asbestos: it wasn’t used in the upper floors of the WTC anyway, so it’s a non-issue as far as 9/11.

    However, for those asbestos lovers out there, you can still find it in some US products. Asbestos in automobile brake pads is very common; so don’t lick them the next time you change yours.

  4. Chris says:

    That struck me, too. Pretty lazy copy editing, there.

  5. guyver8400 says:

    I found this advertisement in an old playboy. This as was pre-battery park city. It has the trade center promoting L & M Cigs

  6. superlayne says:

    This was the same time that Freeon was real big, I’m assuming…

  7. erock0 says:


  8. ElizabethD says:

    That ad is creepy on so many levels. Shudder.

    My FIL died of mesothelioma caused by prolonged asbestos exposure in a Navy shipyard years earlier. His illness was excruciating and his death very hard on my MIL and the whole family. Horrible stuff.

  9. ngwoo says:

    The ad really isn’t creepy. At the time, Asbestos was a common material for insulation. It didn’t burn, it kept the cold out, and they didn’t know it was dangerous until well after it was installed in millions of buildings.
    You have to get into the mindset of that company at the time the ad was printed.

  10. dragonflight says:

    @Zeke129: doesn’t make it better.

    then again, all these companies are bankrupt now so it doesn’t matter too much

  11. PsychicPsycho3 says:

    In MA the laws still say that film projection booths need to be constructed from asbestos wood.

  12. Topcat says:

    I agree with Zeke- and really, asbestos is not the threat it was made out to be.

    Definitely the risks associated with chronic occupational exposure to asbestos are well known, though it’s unlikely they can be extrapolated in a linear fashion to the low-level exposure in a house, school or office building. We’re continuously exposed to low levels of natural mineral fibers (like asbestos) in air and water simply by the normal weathering of rocks- by now we must have developed (over the billions of years of evolution) at least some biological defense against these natural fibers.

    How those billions of dollars in asbestos removal could have been better spent….

  13. soj17 says:

    Why is this so apalling to some? It was printed years before 9/11 and this company was simply advertising its goods. Yes its agreed that asbestos is bad for you but there isn’t a fire department in the US that will argue against its fire protection abilities. Hell, asbestos actually has saved lives and it was outlawed because or its downside yet smoking hasn’t saved a single person and its still perfectly legal.

  14. CeilingCat says:

    “The ad is from a Canadian company, Asbestos Corporation Limited. Surprised they’re still operating and haven’t been sued into a pile of dust.”

    Unfortunately, the reasons ACL still exists are political. Most of Canada’s Asbestos deposits reside in Quebec, which over the last few decades has been seeking independence from the rest of Canada. The money generated from overseas sales of Asbestos (and other natural resources, of which Quebec has bucket loads) would be a nice crown jewel in an up-and-coming newly separated Quebec, so every effort is made to protect that industry, including outright lies and fishy science.

    The medical literature makes a distinction between Canadian Chrysotile (aka ‘white’) asbestos and the other more carcinogenic forms of Aabestos, but some politicians have equated the wording of “less biohazardous” with that of “safe”. It’s now an oft-repeated mantra that Canadian asbestos is “special”.

    Considering how long it took the tobacco industry to fess up I don’t see the kind of BS being passed off as good science and medicine about asbestos going away anytime soon.

  15. slipgrid says:

    On the other hand, if they hadn’t removed the asbestos, the towers may not have collapsed.

    I’m not sure they did remove it. Seems like it would be a fairly big project.

  16. rbb says:

    This was already posted here 6+ years ago The ad was in an asbestos trade magazine from Nov 1981.

    As for asbestos in the WTCs – “As a result, asbestos fireproofing was only used up to the thirty-eighth floor of the first WTC tower and not at all in the second. Continuing asbestos hysteria eventually resulted in much of the asbestos eventually being ripped out of the first tower.”

    Also from the article:

    When the non-asbestos fireproofing was attached to a steel pushrod to simulate the steel columns at the WTC and exposed to fire, NIST found that as the temperatures increased, all the non-asbestos fireproofing shrank and lost contact with the pushrod before reaching maximum test temperature. Another set of tests indicated that the thermal conductivity of non-asbestos fireproofing was much higher than asbestos “spreading heat to the vulnerable steel,” Berlau reports.

    NIST was not able to test the original asbestos fireproofing because it is no longer available, “but we know – from more than a century of fire tests – that asbestos almost certainly would have performed better,” writes Berlau. Part of that knowledge, of course, comes from the 1975 WTC fire which appears largely to have been contained by asbestos.

    The irony is that there is no evidence that anything was gained in terms of health benefits by not using asbestos fireproofing. The original concerns that indoor air would be contaminated by passing over asbestos fireproofing were unfounded. City University of New York mineralogy professor Dr. Arthur Langer told Berlau that the sort of asbestos spray originally used on the WTC was tested at airports in the 1990s.

    “This stuff was so damn good that this stuff did not release fibers – even with the vibrations from the airplanes and so forth,” Langer said.

  17. eross says:

    Actually, deaths clearly due to asbestosis appeared in medical literature not later than 1924 and the manufacturers were unmistakably well aware that it was killing workers by the 1930s because they were defending lawsuits from victims. “An Air That Kills” by the prize-winning reporters who broke the Libby/WR Grace story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is an excelent read for those interested.

  18. Nancy Rossi, the mother of a childhood friend of mine, wrote a book called From This Day Forward about her husband’s asbestos-related death. I think that Reader’s Digest excerpted it in the early 1980’s.

    The Wikipedia entry on asbestos is, actually, quite interesting.

  19. Covert7 says:

    “…And now you know why corporations are awesome!”

    I just don’t get the attitude behind this type of comment. So because some corporations do bad things, then by broad generalization all corporations are also bad. The whole concept of corporations is just wrong, eh?

    I have no beef with calling companies or people out on the things they do that are wrong or immoral, but exaggerated statements like that are useless. It doesn’t work when generalizing people or ethnic groups and it doesn’t work in this context either.

  20. mark duffy says:

    Zeke 129:

    the ad is from 1981. You seriously think asbestos companies didn’t know at the time they’re product “was bad for you” (it directly causes lung cancer)?


  21. mach1andy says:

    Wow. Its sad to read that a ‘company secret’ that was kept a secret for financial gain, has harmed someone you’re close to. I’m sure this fuels you’re desire to bring truth to the readers of Consumerist; having the ability to call-out an unethical organization and give readers the heads up they need to tell their friends, coworkers etc. in order to prevent damage. Keep up the great work. I think I reload this page about 15 times during the course of a day because it always amazes me organizations are always trying to pull one over on ‘us.’

  22. chartrule says:

    This link here has some info on both Abestros and the company responsible for that advert.

  23. Techguy1138 says:

    I guess I’m not quite sure what the problem is either. Fibreglass also causes cancer. At this point it is well known that anykind of fibreous material handling requires protective measures.

    It is simply to tragic that these substances have been used for almost a century without any protections. Most people still enter and disturb fibreglass installations without protection.

  24. Tonguetied says:

    It has also been shown (placeholder speak for “I don’t have the reference on me but I know I read it somewhere”) that asbestos removal actually releases more fibers into the air than just leaving it where it is. Most (all?) of the damage done by asbestoes to the lungs is from people working on it directly rather than by people working around it leaving it undisturbed.

    Bad disease, bad product (although it is ALL NATURAL!) but there’s a lot of hysteria out there too…