New Testing Finds Asbestos in Crayons and Toy Fingerprint Kits

An anti-asbestos advocacy organization tested the children’s products in certified labs.

As Americans, we need to be able to buy toys for our kids without having to worry whether they are contaminated with toxic substances. Unfortunately, parents cannot let down their guards even when it comes to toys as common and simple as color crayons, a staple of childhood.

In July 2015, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund released test results that found asbestos in some crayons and fingerprint toys made in China, but bought off the shelf in California stores (Dollar Tree, Party City) and over the Internet from popular websites (Amazon, Toys"R"Us).

(EWG's Asbestos Nation project aims to "educate and mobilize" people against asbestos hazards. According to Asbestos Nation, 8 million pounds of asbestos have been imported into the U.S. in the past decade and 15,000 American deaths can be blamed on the substance annually.)

Of several brands tested, four crayon brands and two fingerprint kits tested positive for asbestos. (Different brands of the same toys have previously tested positive.) EWG reports that the federal government has not outlawed asbestos in toys and that apparently manufacturers and toy companies are unable to self-regulate in this important area.

Asbestos, a microscopic, fibrous natural mineral, causes painful, severe illnesses that are potentially fatal: mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and others. The chemical is a time bomb in the body, sometimes taking decades for disease to develop after the tiny, airborne fibers of asbestos were inhaled.

Because asbestos is particularly dangerous when airborne, EWG Action Fund is particularly concerned about kids' chances of breathing in the loose powder in the toy fingerprint kits. In addition, the study's author notes that 80 percent of toys sold in the U.S. come from China, not reassuring for parents. EWG urges parents to share the brands of infected toys with schools this fall.

EWG says that the likely culprit of the contamination is through the use of powdered talc as ingredients in the two products. Talc is a soft mineral often contaminated with asbestos when mined and implicated as a source of harmful asbestos in cosmetic and hygiene products. None of the infected toys lists talc as an ingredient on labels, however, so there is no way for a consumer to know if it is a component.

The Action Fund is calling for toy companies to "immediately stop using talc unless they are certain the source is free of asbestos," and that Americans should push the federal government to step up its monitoring and testing of asbestos in consumer products, particularly those containing talc, and ban talc in toys.

Anyone with an asbestos-caused illness or who has lost a loved one to such a disease should speak with a personal injury attorney who represents clients in asbestos-injury lawsuits in order to understand potential legal remedies.

With offices in California, Washington, Utah and Oregon, the asbestos lawyers at Brayton Purcell, L.L.P., fight for the legal rights of clients harmed by asbestos at work, at home, in consumer products and elsewhere.