Asbestos found in children's crayons and toys, says advocacy group

crayon tips
CC BY 2.0 laffy4k

Tests of boxes of imported crayons and "crime scene fingerprint kits" for kids revealed that they contained asbestos, which has long been known to cause cancer and other deadly lung diseases.

The last thing you want to hear about something your kids might be using everyday is that it contains potentially toxic or deadly ingredients. But unfortunately, that's what a recent study of 28 kinds of crayons and 21 fingerprint kits by an advocacy group just confirmed, and the ingredient found in the products was something that we probably all know is a deadly one, namely asbestos.

While the fact that asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen might be widely known, what's much less well-known is the fact that it's not banned or no longer in use anymore, even though it's still implicated in the deaths of some 15,000 Americans each year. And it's certainly not something that we would imagine would still be in consumer products, especially those that are targeted to children, so it might come as some surprise that a common childhood item such as crayons could be the source of a cancer-causing material. But that's what an investigation by the EWG Action Fund found, which begs the question of why asbestos is still found in toys and other children's products, decades after the asbestos/cancer connection was made.

The EWG Action Fund, a sister organization to the Environmental Working Group, obtained 28 kinds of crayons and 21 fingerprint kids, all purchased either at a national retail chain or online retailers, and commissioned testing of them at two state-of-the-art laboratories. The results of those tests showed that four of the brands of crayons and two of the crime scene fingerprint kits were "tainted" with asbestos, all of which were made in China and imported to the U.S..

Although the fingerprint kits were found to contain higher amounts of asbestos than the crayons, and their formulation as a loose powder posed a bigger risk of inhalation of the fibers, the amount of microscopic asbestos fibers in a single crayon could be as high as 1 million or more, which is significant, considering that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that "There is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber."

The four brands of crayons found to contain asbestos were Amscan Crayons, Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons, and Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce, and the two fingerprint kits were sold in the EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit and the Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit.

"EWG Action Fund purchased the crayons that tested positive for asbestos between February and May 2015 at two national chains, Party City and Dollar Tree, in a suburban county near San Francisco. The fund ordered the two crime scene toys that contained asbestos through and

Scientific Analytical Institute of Greensboro, N.C., tested the products for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy, or TEM, the most precise method available. A second analytical laboratory examined all samples that tested positive."

According to Asbestos Nation, where the results of the report were published, the asbestos in the products was most likely from contamination of the talc used in both (as a binding agent in the crayons and as an ingredient in the fingerprint powder), which is a fairly common occurrence, as asbestos and talc are often found in the same geological formations.

Although asbestos was found in tests of crayons in 2000, and in fingerprint kits in 2007, the regulatory body that oversees such matters, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, "has not banned or regulated asbestos in crayons, toys or other children’s products."

"Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children, today as it did in 2000 and 2007, the last time tests found the deadly substance in these children’s products. Clearly some toy manufacturers haven’t done enough to protect children and others from asbestos in consumer products. Therefore, it’s high time the federal government bans asbestos in consumer products." - Dr. Philip Landrigan, asbestos expert and professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital

For an in-depth look at the issue of asbestos in toys and kids' products, read more at Asbestos Nation. And if the state of regulation (or rather lack of regulation) of this substance in widely available consumer products disturbs you as much as it does me, consider signing your name to this petition, which calls for several major retailers to discontinue carrying the offending products.

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