In post World War II America, it is estimated that as many as 5,000 products contained asbestos. Many of these products were items that could be found in an average American household. Asbestos was most commonly found in these household products as an insulator, often in small appliances that used heat, such as irons, hair dryers and popcorn poppers.
Before microwave ovens, popcorn was cooked in an electrical appliance called a popcorn popper. A typical popcorn popper consisted of a round base on which the oil was heated and where the kernels were placed, and a domed plastic lid, where the popcorn would collect as it popped. When the appliance was plugged into an outlet, heat would generate, popping the popcorn.
The asbestos in a popcorn popper was used to insulate the electrical components. No one was exposed to the asbestos until the popcorn popper was damaged or was taken apart to be repaired. However, upon taking it apart, the owner and/or repair person may have been exposed to toxic asbestos particles.
While popcorn poppers manufactured in the United States no longer contain asbestos, this material is not regulated in all countries, so a device purchased elsewhere may still pose a health risk. Additionally, old or antique poppers may pose a health risk and should not be used.
Some company executives and others involved in the manufacture of asbestos products knew about the dangers of asbestos. Yet asbestos continued to be used in many household appliances. Asbestos related diseases are caused by asbestos fibers being lodged in the chest area. These fibers cause inflammation, chest pain and breathing difficulties. The inflammation may develop into a cancerous tumor, called mesothelioma. There is no cure for mesothelioma.