Asbestos mitts were a common type of protective clothing used throughout mostly the mid 20th century. They were commonly used in a variety of settings to protect hands from extreme hot and cold. Asbestos is a very resilient mineral and does an excellent job of insulating against hot and cold surfaces. The dense and small fibers that comprise the material seemed ideal for use in a mitt that is designed to not only protect the wearer’s hands from hot and cold surfaces but to also be very tear and rip resistant. However, even though asbestos mitts did fulfill their intended purpose rather well, they exposed many people to the dangerous airborne fibers that can be inhaled and cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and even lung cancer.
Asbestos mitts were used in the home and throughout many different occupations. They provided protection to workers in the industrial and building industries, to military personnel, fire fighters, and even to homemakers who used them in the kitchen or utility room.
On May 30, 1980 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted to require nearly 1,200 U.S. corporations to provide information concerning asbestos in products that they were making. The CPSC created 30 categories of products that included products regularly used in a home setting and included oven mitts and pot holders containing asbestos. The goal of the inquiry was to protect the public from the then-known health concerns of exposure to asbestos and to answer five questions: whether asbestos had been used in the products, the form in which the asbestos is present, the purpose the asbestos serves in the product, the results of any tests performed to determine the admission of any asbestos fibers into the air, and whether there were any suitable substitutes for asbestos in the product. Many products that formerly contained asbestos, including protective mitts, are now made out of alternative materials.