Report: Asbestos found in crayons, other children’s toys

Laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund has discovered that several brands of crayons and some toy crime scene fingerprint kits intended for children contained fibers of the known carcinogen, asbestos.

As reported last week, the EWG had independent researchers at the North Carolina-based Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI) run tests of 28 boxes of crayons and discovered that four of them contained asbestos. In addition, 21 toy fingerprint kits were tested, with two of them found to contain the substance at the relatively high concentration level of one percent.

The offending products include Amscan brand, Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce-brand crayons. The affected fingerprint kits include the EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit (black fingerprint powder) and the Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit (white fingerprint power).

“This is an exposure that could easily be avoided,” Sonya Lunder, EWG senior researcher and one of the authors of the group’s study, told “The threshold for exposing a kid to a carcinogenic chemical when they’re playing with toys should be zero.”

“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,” added Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Congressmen calling for voluntary recall of ‘toxic products’

While the study examines specific products, Lunder told the website that the report should serve as a reminder to consumers that asbestos, which is still legal, can be found in any product. The lesson is that parents “can’t just read labels and choose safer products by looking at the labels themselves. There’s not enough information about where asbestos might be found.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that an estimated 125 million people worldwide have asbestos at the workplace, and that the substance is responsible for more than 100,000 deaths annually. While the naturally occurring mineral fiber is used in a number of industries for its heat resistance and tensile strength, all forms of the material are known to cause cancer in humans.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which does not prohibit the inclusion of asbestos in crayons, told that it would be investigating the EWG’s findings. However, the offending products are produced in China, making them hard to track, and the group needs to demonstrate that products have the potential to cause health problems before taking action.

As CPSC spokesperson Scott Wilson explained, the group must determine how much of the substance that can come out of the product, the root of exposure, and how many hours children spend using the product. However, Senators Edward Markey of Democrat and Dick Durbin of Illinois are calling for a voluntarily recall of these “toxic products,” adding that they would work with the CPSC to determine next steps to address product safety.


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