The Snow in The Wizard of Oz Was 100% Pure Asbestos

The Snow in The Wizard of Oz Was 100% Pure Asbestos


Summary

  • The famed poppy field scene in The Wizard of Oz utilized fake snow made out of asbestos.
  • Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous carcinogen, one which is directly linked to the development of mesothelioma.
  • The production of The Wizard of Oz was additionally plagued with numerous health hazards, including poisoning from aluminum makeup and injuries from pyrotechnic stunts.


The snow in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz was made using the toxic mineral asbestos. A lot has changed in the entertainment world since then, but this famous Judy Garland movie still inspires creativity to this day, especially with its numerous practical effects. Unfortunately, some of the tricks that the crew used were more than a little hazardous to everyone involved with the production. This included the use of asbestos.

Updated Dec. 30, 2023: This article has been updated with additional content about the utilization of asbestos in The Wizard of Oz.

The poppy scene in The Wizard of Oz became infamous over the years after viewers learned that the fake snow in the scene was 100% asbestos. In the movie, Dorothy wakes up in a snow-covered poppy field engineered by Glinda the Good Witch. Chrysotile, which is white asbestos, was once sold as fake snow for Christmas decorations, and was similarly used for this scene. This was alongside asbestos’ wider utilization in roofing materials, brake pads, interior fire doors, stage curtains, popcorn ceilings, and more. According to Atlas Obscura, The Wizard of Oz “literally dous[es] its main characters in carcinogens,” given the immense amount of fake snow used in the scene.

When asbestos dust is inhaled or ingested, the mineral fibers can possibly become permanently trapped in the body. Trapped asbestos fibers within the body can cause lung inflammation, scarring, and even genetic damage. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, is almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure, along with other types of cancer and lung diseases. With that being said, it has not been officially confirmed that anybody from the set of The Wizard of Oz passed away from the use of asbestos in the poppy field scene.


The Cursed Production of The Wizard of Oz

Related: Unmade Wizard of Oz Sequel Writer Hopes Movie Will Eventually Happen: “I Was Really Proud of That Script”

In addition to the fake snow in The Wizard of Oz, asbestos was reportedly also used in Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow costume. Since the character has several run-ins with fire in the movie, it is believed that his costume was sprayed with a flameproofing material made from asbestos. Thankfully, movie crews nowadays utilize other methods when creating fake snow or dealing with real-life flames on the set, thanks to advancements in safety technology and the greater proliferation of computer-generated effects.

The Wizard of Oz may very well be the most beloved movie of all time. However, there were more than a few troubling aspects about its production. Buddy Ebsen, who originally played the Tin Man, landed himself in the hospital for two weeks after the aluminum used in his makeup seeped into his body, poisoning him in the process. He was replaced with Jack Haley, who subsequently developed a milder infection that was more easily treatable. Margaret Hamilton was additionally injured while performing one of her smoke-filled disappearing stunts, and had to be driven to the hospital. It took her six weeks to fully recover from her injuries.

The Wizard of Oz

Release Date
August 15, 1939

Director
Victor Fleming , Mervyn LeRoy , Richard Thorpe , King Vidor

Cast
Judy Garland , Frank Morgan , Ray Bolger , Bert Lahr , Jack Haley , Billie Burke

Rating
G



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