Lab Tests Confirm Deadly Carcinogen in Crayons, Crime Scene Fingerprint Kits
Washington, D.C. (July 8, 2015)– Tests by an independent government-certified laboratory have found deadly asbestos fibers in several brands of children’s crayons and toy crime scene investigation kits. The tests, commissioned by EWG Action Fund, used the most sensitive method available for detecting asbestos. The tests found asbestos in four samples of crayons, most ...
Washington, D.C. (July 8, 2015)– Tests by an independent government-certified laboratory have found deadly asbestos fibers in several brands of children’s crayons and toy crime scene investigation kits. The tests, commissioned by EWG Action Fund, used the most sensitive method available for detecting asbestos.
The tests found asbestos in four samples of crayons, most of them sold under the names of such popular children’s characters as Mickey Mouse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Asbestos was found in two crime scene investigation kits tested, both in fingerprinting powder.
This is the second time in 15 years that asbestos has been found in crayons and crime scene fingerprint toys, but federal authorities have taken no enforceable action to ban asbestos in toys or other children’s products. Although federal regulators say the risk of asbestos exposure from the items tested is low, doctors, scientists and health officials agree that no level of asbestos is safe.
“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,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Landrigan is an internationally recognized asbestos expert and former senior adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on children’s environmental health.
“Clearly some toy manufacturers haven’t done enough to protect children and others from asbestos in consumer products,” Landrigan said. “It’s high-time the federal government bans asbestos in consumer products.”
“These toys could release asbestos fibers that if inhaled or swallowed by children could cause deadly or debilitating diseases that may not show up for decades,” said Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst with EWG and EWG Action Fund and co-author of the study. “Asbestos is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than any other toxic substance, with up to 15,000 Americans dying each year from asbestos-related disease. No one should be exposed to asbestos, but the fact that some children’s toys are contaminated with this material is outrageous.”
Contaminated crayons could release microscopic asbestos fibers as they are worn down. The average child uses 730 crayons by age 10.
Crime scene kits could expose children to airborne asbestos fibers, a common occurrence. Instructions for one of the kits that tested positive for asbestos say: “Put a small amount of dusting powder on the brush, use the blower to blow on the bristles gently, and run the brush softly over the fingerprinted spot. Use the blower to blow off excess powder on top.”
The crayons that tested positive for asbestos were purchased from February to May of this year (2015) from Party City and Dollar Tree, in a suburban county near San Francisco. Two were ordered online through Amazon.com and ToysRUs.com.
According to the package labels, all the crayons and toys that contained asbestos were made in China and imported to the U.S. It is not clear whether the companies whose names or licensed characters appear on the packages were responsible for importing these products or whether they merely licensed the use of their trademarks to market them.
Scientific Analytical Institute of Greensboro, N.C., tested the products for asbestos, using transmission electron microscopy, the most precise method available. Positive findings were confirmed by a second accredited lab. SAI said the asbestos found was most likely a contaminant in talc used to make the crayons and fingerprint kits.
The test results show that neither voluntary agreements between manufacturers and the Consumer Products Safety Commission, nor the CPSC pledge to monitor crayons have been enough to ensure that children’s products are free of asbestos.
“Statements of concern and promises to monitor children’s products are not enough,” said Heather White, board member of EWG Action Fund. “It is time for the government to implement a rigorous testing protocol to make sure no products, particularly toys, contain asbestos. Parents have enough to worry about without fear that their child’s toy could contain a deadly carcinogen.”
EWG Action Fund sent a letter today to CPSC chairman Elliot F. Kaye, demanding that the agency “investigate asbestos contamination in children’s products and take all necessary precautions to protect children from the dangers of asbestos exposure.”
EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.