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Asbestos in Toys Found – Again

asbestos in toys

Asbestos in toys seems impossible to believe. Who would put asbestos in toys and put young children at risk for inhaling asbestos fibers?  Microscopic asbestos fibers once inhaled can lodge in the lungs and within a few years or a few decades cause a fatal cancer called mesothelioma.  There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.  Yet asbestos in toys has been an ongoing problem and was just reported again by an environmental consumer watchdog group.

Asbestos in Toys Imported From China According to New Report

Asbestos in toys was the focus of a new detailed report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Action Fund.  EWG found asbestos in several brands of children’s crayons and fingerprint kits made in China and sold in the U.S.  This is the third time in 15 years that the cancer-causing substance has been detected in crayons or fingerprint toys marketed to children—apparently, due to the use of asbestos-contaminated talc.  China a leading manufacturer for many products imported to the US, remains one of the biggest users of deadly asbestos in the world today. China also has lower environmental and safety standards compared to the United States and Western European countries.

The toys were purchased by EWG staff at national retail chains or through online retailers and then sent for testing to two government-certified laboratories, according to the EWG report.

EWG Action Fund purchased the crayons that tested positive for asbestos between February and May 2015 at Bay Area stores of two national chains, Party City and Dollar Tree. The fund ordered the two crime scene fingerprint toys that contained asbestos online through Amazon and ToysRUs.

Asbestos Found In Toys Promoted With Popular Characters

EWG’s tests detected asbestos in four of 28 boxes of crayons tested.  Several of these featured the use of popular children’s characters including Mickey Mouse, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It is unclear whether the companies who control the licensing of these characters were aware the Chinese manufacturers were using asbestos in the toys.

Two of the 21 crime scene fingerprint kits were found to be tainted with asbestos, one with black fingerprint powder and the other with white fingerprint powder.

No asbestos was found in 19 other crime lab kits or 24 types of crayons, including those made by the well-known Crayola brand.

Asbestos in Toys Sadly is a Recurring Problem

This latest discovery of asbestos in toys has a very disturbing sense of déjà vu to it. In 2009, our firm helped raise awareness about the discovery of Chinese- produced asbestos-contaminated toy fingerprint kits, called CSI kits or Crime Scene Investigation kits, for sale on Amazon.com.  Our firm’s foundation and Kazan Law clients Paul and Michelle Zygielbaum helped fund the lab testing that found as much as 7.2 percent asbestos in the powder of 6 out of 8 kits tested. We personally alerted Amazon’s legal counsel about this. Our complaints helped spur the removal of these kits from Amazon.

At that time, asbestos in those toys was uncovered by a consumer testing program sponsored by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.  It became a scandal and a class action case was brought against the companies that made and distributed these dangerous products. The case was resolved by an order filed in the United States District Court for the Seventh District of New York on February 23, 2010. The kits were recalled as part of the legal settlement. Full refunds were given to anyone who had one of these contaminated kits and they could be sent back at the defendants’ expense for destruction in accordance with the highest standards of industrial hygiene and environmental safety.

Back in 2000, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was made aware of asbestos in crayons, when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper commissioned testing of well-known US crayon manufacturers.

The CPSC said the risk of children inhaling asbestos fibers from crayons appeared to be ‘’extremely low” but got major manufacturers to reformulate their crayons. The “CPSC will continue to monitor children’s crayons to ensure that they do not present a hazard,” the report said.

Asbestos in Toys Pose Risk at Any Level

EWG’s test results finding asbestos in toys is especially horrific because  a child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 more likely than a 25-year-old to develop mesothelioma, according to the U.K. Committee on Carcinogenicity.

Some industry apologists have tried to argue that the asbestos fibers in the crayons are embedded in wax and pose no danger. Asbestos fibers inhaled primarily as asbestos dust are the primary cause of asbestos-related diseases.  But we do not know how crayons break down as they are used. If 24 out of 28 crayon producers can avoid asbestos, the others can too.

No defense has been offered for the fingerprint kits which work by brushing asbestos-containing powder from the finger-print image.

Latest Asbestos in Toys Report Prompts Renewed Response

The new asbestos in toys reported by the EWG has prompted a new outcry from government officials and a swift response from some of the companies involved.

News media accounts report that the toy fingerprint kits have already been pulled by ToysRUs and Amazon as a result of the report but are still being sold on eBay. Dollar Tree sells three of the tainted crayon brands and declined to report whether they would stop selling them.

Only one state out of 50 – Connecticut – bans asbestos in children’s products, including toys and other articles marketed for children under the age 16.  As long as asbestos remains legal, we can expect this negligent situation to recur.

In the meantime, we applaud Amazon and ToysRUs for voluntarily removing these dangerous products. We call on Ebay, Party City and the Dollar Tree to do like-wise as  well as any retailer who is selling asbestos-containing toys.

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