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Asbestos In Toys And Crayons: What Parents Should Know

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Some crayons and crime scene fingerprint kits made in China and sold in the United States were found to contain asbestos, a harmful mineral that can cause cancer and other deadly lung diseases in children.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund has purchased 28 non-name brand crayons and fingerprint toy kits from Amazon, Toys "R" Us and retail stores in Contra Costa County, Calif. and sent them for transmission electron microscopy to the Scientific Analytical Institute of Greensboro, N.C. for testing.

Four of the crayons were tested positive for asbestos. These are packaged under the labels Amscan Crayons by Amscan, Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse by Greenbrier International, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons by MII, Inc., and Saban's Power Rangers Super Megaforce also by Greenbrier International.

Meanwhile, two fingerprint kits were found to contain asbestos. These are EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit, using black fingerprint powder, by Toys "R" Us and Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit by Buy-Rite, which uses white fingerprint powder.

Another crayon pack, Disney Doc McStuffins Jumbo Crayons purchased from a Dollar Tree store in Pleasant Hill, Calif., was found to have asbestos in one of two laboratory tests. Smartlab Catch the Thief Kit purchased from Amazon and EduScience Crime Lab from Toys "R" Us also came up with similar results.

The EWG Action Fund does not specify how much asbestos were found in the crayons and the toys, but the information is irrelevant, since no amount of asbestos can be safely inhaled by children and adults.

"There is no 'safe' level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos filter," says the Office of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). "Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans. Every occupational exposure to asbestos can cause injury or disease; every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes to the risk of getting an asbestos-related disease."

To make matters worse, the United Kingdom's Committee on Carcinogenicity says that the risk of children under the age of five exposed to asbestos developing mesothelioma is 3.5 times greater than the risk of an adult aged 25 developing the same problem. Mesothelioma is a tumor of the tissue that attacks the lining of the lungs, heart, stomach and other organs. Exposure to asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a chronic lung condition marked by breathing problems that can eventually lead to mesothelioma.

Beside the four crayons, the EWG Action Fund also found fibrous talc two other crayon samples. Talc, which is used as a binding agent for the crayons and the fingerprint kit powders, is often mined in places where there are known to have asbestos deposits. The crayons containing talc are packaged as Disney-Pixar Monsters University 3-pack Confetti crayons and Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man 3-pack Confetti crayons, both purchased from a Dollar Tree store.

Although the use of asbestos for industrial purposes has significantly dropped in the United States, it remains a legal mineral used in construction and the creation of roofing products. Additionally, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission noted that "as a precaution, crayons should not contain these [asbestos] filters," it does not ban or regulate asbestos in toys and crayons.

"Clearly, some toy manufacturers haven't done enough to protect children and others from asbestos in consumer products," says Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "Therefore, it's high time the federal government bans asbestos in consumer products."

The full list of crayons and fingerprint kits containing asbestos and talc is shown below.

Crayons detected and confirmed with asbestos

  • Amscan Crayons by Amscan
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse by Greenbrier International
  • Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons by MII, Inc.
  • Saban's Power Rangers Super Megaforce by Greenbrier International

Crime scene fingerprint kits detected and confirmed with asbestos

  • EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit by Toys "R" Us
  • Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit by Buy-Rite

Crayons detected with asbestos in one of two lab tests

  • Disney Doc McStuffins Jumbo Crayons

Crime scene fingerprint kits detected with asbestos in one of two lab tests

  • EduScience Crime Lab
  • SmartLab Catch the Thief Kit

Crayons detected with fibrous talc

  • Disney-Pixar Monsters University 3-pack Confetti crayons
  • Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man 3-pack Confetti crayons

Photo: Charles Knowles | Flickr

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