Unsafe antiques? Some voice concern

January 12, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Although many collectors and dealers may perish the thought, or pooh-pooh the theory that certain antiques or collectibles are thought to be unsafe, others take such matters very seriously and want to avoid any danger or mishaps that could result from the use of such items.

Take asbestos, for instance, and whether it should be removed, encapsulated, ignored or further explored by testing certain material found in some antique or old heating devices such as some steel ranges and over-the-burner stove-top ovens that were sometimes insulated with asbestos to conserve heat and fuel.

In the past, some asbestos stove linings, or stove-top linings, were combined with other fireproof materials.

According to Michael Fleck, of Environzone Inc., a testing facility in Crystal Lake, Ill., one cannot tell merely by looking at material whether it contains asbestos. Only a laboratory test can tell the story. However, he strongly warns, such material found in any old stove or any other antique that could be made with asbestos parts should not be handled, taken apart, sealed or repaired except by a professional.

You'll find an extremely informative eight-page chapter with color photos of various antiques titled "Healthy Antiques -- A Guide to the Safe Use and Care of Your Antiques and Collectibles" included in the 1991 23rd edition of the "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price List" by Ralph and Terry Kovel. It consists of more than 782 pages listing more than 50,000 priced antiques and is available for $13.45 postpaid from Crown Publishers, 201 E. 50th St., New York, N.Y. 10022, or phone (800) 733-3000 to order.

The Kovels' guide also covers information on radioactive jewelry; lead-glazed dinnerware, pottery and ceramics, which can cause poisoning from lead that may leach out into acidic foods or beverages served in such pieces; flammable celluloid items; unsafe cooking and eating utensils; and lots more.

For information on the Toxic Substances Control Act, phone TOSCA at (202) 554-1404.

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