Are crayons your child’s favorite tool to fool around with in art class? You might need to change it to color pencils or paint as the EWG Action Fund reports that it found traces of asbestos in some crayons and toy crime lab kits. The agency is calling for a complete ban on the carcinogenic substance in consumer product. Four of 28 boxes of crayons tested positive for asbestos. A private lab hired by the EWG Action Fund, a sister organization of the Environmental Working Group, also detected and confirmed asbestos in two of 21 toy crime lab kits it examined. The Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina, conducted the product testing, according to the report.
Asbestos inhalation – even trace amounts- is linked to horrifying lung diseases – such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. However, the Environmental Protection Agency says exposure to asbestos only occurs when asbestos-containing material is disturbed, and when the particles become airborne. For its recent report, the EWG Action Fund purchased crayons and toy crime lab kits at national retail chains near San Francisco or at online retailers between February and May 2015.
The report outlined that three types of the substance were found in the crayons: tremolite, chrysotile and anthophyllite. The asbestos was probably a contaminant of talc, which can be used as a binding agent in the crayons and in powder in the toy crime lab kits. According to the report, asbestos is often found in mines alongside talc deposits.
“Parents do need to be concerned about particular brands of products where asbestos was identified,” said Dr. Jerry Paulson, the former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health.
Package labels indicated that the crayons and toys containing asbestos were made in China and imported to the United States, according to the report. Affected crayon boxes included Amscan Crayons purchased at Party City as well as Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons and Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce boxes purchased at Dollar Tree. To be noted, however, is that the amount of asbestos in the products was never revealed in the report.
The two toy crime lab kits with contaminants included the black fingerprint powder in the Edu Science Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit, purchased at ToysRUs.com, and the white fingerprint powder from the Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit, purchased on Amazon.com.
Paulson, who is not affiliated with the report, said that powder from the crime lab kits was of particular concern.
“Powders make this material much more available to the lung, where asbestos does its damage,” Paulson said.
The vice president of investor relations for Dollar Tree, which owns Greenbrier International Inc., an importer and distributor named in the report, released a statement: “The safety of our customers is paramount and we work constantly to ensure our suppliers’ products are compliant and safe. To that end, we have a very robust and stringent test program, which includes working with independent CPSC-accredited testing companies to ensure our suppliers’ products meet all safety and legal standards.”
A spokesperson for Party City, which is owned by Amscan, said in a statement: “Amscan is dedicated to ensuring that all of its products meet or exceed federal, state and municipal requirements. To this end, Amscan conducts compliance testing of its suppliers’ products by using nationally recognized product testing organizations. Any product that fails to meet governmental or Amscan’s standards will not be distributed or sold. We take these types of matters very seriously and are investigating further.”
‘Toys R Us’ spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said in a statement: “The safety of our customers is, and always has been, our highest priority. We take this responsibility very seriously. We require that every product we carry meets or exceeds all applicable state and federal laws, industry standards, codes and requirements. At this time, we are reviewing the referenced report, along with supplier test reports, to ensure full compliance to our strict safety standards.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission “takes the issue raised in the EWG report seriously, and CPSC staff is going to follow up in regards to the product that the EWG identified in their report,” Scott Wolfson, communications director for the CPSC, told CNN.
“Child safety is of the utmost importance to CPSC, and we have looked into the issue of asbestos in crayons and possibly being in fingerprint kits in the past. The agency has advised manufacturers in the past to not use any chemicals or any materials that could put a child’s health at risk. And we will once again look at the products that have been identified in this new report.”
This is not the first time that asbestos contamination has been associated with children’s toys. The EWG Action Fund conducted its study as a follow-up to earlier investigations, the report’s co-author, Sonya Lunder, told CNN.
In 2000, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer found asbestos in crayons, and the nonprofit Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization found asbestos in a toy fingerprint exam kit in 2007.
“It is really shocking to have had these two reports previously raise attention to the issue (and) have manufacturers pledge to pay more attention and to see there are still products on the shelf that have talc, which is contaminated with asbestos in many cases,” Lunder said.
The CPSC found that in the case of the 2000 report, the amount of asbestos in the crayons was so small it was “scientifically insignificant.” It remains to be seen how much asbestos was found in the toys this time around. For now, it’s probably safer to just take the kids to a park to enjoy some physical activity and leave artwork until the concern is resolved!