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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.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Reports Good News

mesothelioma clinical trialMesothelioma clinical trial results were announced recently by the major American pharmaceutical company Merck and the news is good. Merck tested its new cancer-fighting drug Keytruda in 25 patients with advanced pleural mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma typically affects the cells that line the lungs but can also occur in cell linings of the abdomen and other organs.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Key: Blocking Cell Death Protein

In this mesothelioma clinical trial, as with the clinical trials for the 20 other difficult types of cancer being tested with Keytruda treatments, the key mechanism involves Keytruda’s ability to block an immune-suppressing protein called PD-1.

Keytruda, Merck’s registered trademark name for pembrolizumab, is part of a new class of drugs that is proving to be effective at blocking PD-1. Blocking PD-1 gives the body’s own immune system the opportunity it needs to attack tumors and stop the spread of cancer.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Results

The early findings for Merck’s mesothelioma clinical trial with Keytruda showed an overall response rate (confirmed and unconfirmed) of 28 percent in patients with tumors that expressed PD-1. Additionally, 48 percent of patients had stable disease, resulting in an overall disease control rate of 76 percent. At the time of Merck’s report, 40 percent of patients – 10 out of 25 were still receiving the treatment.

These Keytruda mesothelioma clinical trial results are being presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting by Dr. Evan Alley, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, and also were highlighted in the AACR’s official press conference.

“This presentation at AACR marks the first time that data involving an anti-PD-1 therapy have been presented in pleural mesothelioma, which is a hard-to-treat cancer with very limited treatment options,” said Dr. Alley, clinical associate professor of medicine, Abramson Cancer Center. “While early, the disease control rates observed in this study are very encouraging, and indicate that further study is warranted to evaluate the potential role of Keytruda in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma.”

It is worth noting that the mesothelioma clinical trial results reported that no mesothelioma patients discontinued Keytruda due to negative side effects, and there were no treatment-related deaths.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Ushers In New Era in Cancer Treatment

Mesothelioma clinical trial results until now have typically generated favorable or unfavorable scientific results that were limited only to the treatment of mesothelioma. With an innovative approach that recognizes that some of the basic processes for cancer are similar across all types of cancers and that a treatment for one cancer can be effective in many types, Merck has undertaken a new vast clinical trial program for Keytruda that includes more than 85 simultaneous clinical trials – encompassing over 30 tumor types and over 14,000 patients – both as the sole type of treatment and in combination with other therapies.

The results from the Keytruda mesothelioma clinical trial will not only help mesothelioma patients but will contribute to an important new body of vital knowledge on the treatment of all types of cancer through the PD-1 inhibitor mechanism.

PD-1 pathway inhibitors show the potential to “change the landscape of cancer immunotherapy,” an article in the journal Cancer Control stated just in the last year. “The PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in cancer is implicated in tumors escaping immune destruction and is a promising therapeutic target. The development of anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 agents marks a new era in the treatment of cancer with immunotherapies,” the article predicted.

Now with the promising results shown in the Keytruda mesothelioma clinical trial and also in a Keytruda melanoma clinical trial, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, that new era in cancer treatment may at long last finally be here.

4 Great Tech Gifts for a Mesothelioma Patient

mesothelioma patientGiving the gift of technology to a mesothelioma patient now during the holidays can be a gift that will keep on giving to them for the months to come.

A Digital Photo Frame

Loading up a digital photo frame with pictures of friends, family, special occasions, or places you have visited together is a great gift idea. Your loved one could bring the frame along to treatment visits or for when they need to be hospitalized. These happy reminders of who their supporters are and what they are fighting for can’t help but to improve their spirits! Here’s an article from Consumer Reports that compares popular brands of digital photo frame.

Hand Warmers and Foot Warmers

Sometimes mesothelioma patients just can’t keep their hands and feet warm. A handy solution – hand warmers and foot warmers that you can take anywhere. These are an especially great gift for someone who is undergoing chemotherapy which can make fingers and toes especially susceptible to feeling cold. A company called warmer.com offers many options. One is Grabbers, disposable, portable hand and foot warmers. Break open one of these self-contained packets and they reportedly generate heat for as long as 8 hours.

A Kindle or a Nook

An e-reader, according to the Wikipedia definition, is a handheld electronic device designed for the purpose of reading books and magazines in digital format. Any computer or smart phone that can display text on a screen can act as an e-book reader but specialized e-book readers optimize portability, ease of use, readability, and battery life. A single e-book reader is capable of holding the digital equivalent of hundreds of printed texts with no added bulk. The entry level Kindle by Amazon or Nook from Barnes and Noble are safe bets. Many classic books are free for e-readers. Libraries also offer free access to e-books but as with real library books, they are on temporary loan.

Digital Movie Subscription

What a wonderful thing for a mesothelioma patient who can’t go out or shouldn’t be around crowds! They can watch unlimited movies on a computer or TV screen. TV shows, too. One of the biggest providers of digital movies is Netflix with over 30 million subscribers in the U.S. Other options include an Amazon Prime membership with the bonus of free shipping on Amazon shopping, or Hulu Plus which has a vast assortment of TV shows and exclusive rights to the Criterion Collection of classic and foreign films. You can buy a Netflix subscription gift card or Hulu Plus subscription gift card at stores like Target and WalMart.

The Asbestos Facts about Clear Creek Management Area

For years, Kazan Law has fought misinformation in the courtroom.  When we enter the fray we are armed with decades of experience.  We learn from medical doctors, epidemiologists, industrial hygienists, economists, mineralogists and other experts who are at the top of their respective fields.  We constantly read the cutting edge medical and scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals.  In short, we have the means to separate asbestos facts from biased fiction.

Most people do not have such resources.

We recently discovered a location close to home where innocent people are being misled by corporate interests in ways that threaten their very lives. Watch as I present the asbestos facts about Clear Creek Management Area. Stay tuned to read the full story.


In Memoriam: Philip A. Harley 1947-2009

Philip A. Harley On July 2, our beloved friend and partner passed away peacefully at home with his husband, Mark Kalend, their four year old twin daughters Sara and True, and Phil’s mother and brothers. He came home from the hospital on July 1, and had the final opportunity he so badly wanted – to be with his loved ones and say good-bye in their own home. His illness began six weeks ago, with the sudden onset of what proved to be an extraordinarily aggressive form of malignant melanoma. He fought with his usual grace and courage, but even Phil couldn’t win this last trial. We will miss him terribly, but will remember him always.

Plans for a memorial celebration of his life are pending.

Libby, Montana – Health Emergency Declared June 17

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared a public health emergency in a Libby, Montana, a town contaminated by asbestos from a vermiculite mine. Hundreds of miners, their family members, and community members have died, and thousands have been sickened from exposure to the asbestos-containing ore. The announcement was made today at a joint press conference with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester. This is the first time the EPA has made such a declaration under authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that conditions presented a significant threat to public health.

This will not result in an evacuation, but will require an extensive cleanup and better health protections for residents with asbestos-related illnesses. The EPA is working with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is making available a $6 million grant to provide asbestos-related medical care to Libby and residents of Troy, another Montana town. The Libby mine was the source of over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the United States until it was closed in 1990.

International Agency for Cancer Research

Twenty-seven scientists from eight countries met at the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, last month to reevaluate substances, including asbestos, suspected of being carcinogenic to humans. IARC is an intergovernmental agency whose mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of cancer in humans. IARC conducts epidemiological and laboratory research and disseminates scientific information through a series of monographs on the cancer risks to humans posed by a variety of agents.

IARC reconfirmed that all forms of asbestos cause lung cancer and mesothelioma and decided there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes laryngeal cancer and ovarian cancer. Additionally, there is limited evidence that asbestos is involved in colorectal cancer, as well as cancers of the pharynx and the stomach. Minerals such as talc and vermiculite that are frequently contaminated with asbestos were also regarded as “carcinogenic to humans.”

According to IARC, “Identifying the causes of human cancer is the first step in cancer prevention. National and international health agencies can then take action to reduce avoidable exposures to cancer-causing agents. Individuals, too, can use this information to make better choices that reduce their exposure to carcinogens and their risk of developing cancer.

“Differences in cancer incidences in developed and developing countries suggest that many kinds of agents can contribute to the occurrence of cancer. These include chemicals, complex mixtures, occupational exposures, lifestyle factors, and physical and biological agents. Scientific advice that is credible, authoritative, and impartial can greatly aid efforts to reduce the global burden of cancer.”

The review of human carcinogens will be published as Part C of Volume 100 of the IARC monographs.

Asian Asbestos Conference, Part Two

In the April 14 entry below, I summarized the scope of this month’s conference in Hong Kong and mentioned my presentation during Plenary Session 2. I was particularly pleased to be invited to also give a two-hour workshop that same afternoon titled “Break-Out Session 1 – Filing Asian Claims with U.S. Bankruptcy Trusts.” During this workshop, it is my hope that I will be able to teach representatives from non-governmental organizations, local victims’ groups, local industrial and trade union groups, and other community representatives, as well as local attorneys from throughout Asia, enough about the structure and procedures of the U.S. Bankruptcy Trust Funds to enable them to comfortably undertake the representation of Asian asbestos victims without the need to hire and pay American lawyers. I have long believed that it makes more sense for this work to be done locally and not by American lawyers – I said as much at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Amsterdam last year and I continue to believe that today. During that two-hour presentation, I will explain the organization and structure of the bankruptcy trusts and how the claims process works. Using the Babcock & Wilcox Asbestos Trust as a model, I will walk the attendees through the claims criteria and go step by step through the Proof of Claim form, explaining in detail how the forms have to be completed and how the necessary information can be obtained. Attention will be paid to using Trusts’ approved site lists and ways to establish responsibility at sites that are unlisted. I will include a brief introduction to researching the history of ocean-going vessels and where to find information about asbestos exposure. I will also discuss how to establish the various elements of economic and non-economic damage that go into the process of valuing claims.

It is my hope that at the conclusion of this workshop, those in attendance will have developed a sufficient comfort level to begin the process of preparing and submitting Trust claims for asbestos victims in their communities.

HB Kazan on Trusts

Asian Asbestos Conference, Part One

On April 25, 2009, participants from four continents will convene in Hong Kong at this year’s largest international asbestos meeting, the Asian Asbestos Conference. The conference is sponsored by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the Building & Woodworkers International, and three groups based in Hong Kong – the Asia Monitor Resource Center, the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

As our readers will well understand, it makes great sense to hold a meeting in Asia, which has been a major focus of recent publications seeking to address the local asbestos problems including Killing the Future, a monograph detailing the depth and breadth of problems throughout Asia, and India’s Asbestos Time Bomb, a collection of scholarly articles and reportage on the specific problems being experienced in India, which was published last September in Mumbai and at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group seminar in Amsterdam.

Currently, Asia consumes more than half the raw asbestos fiber used throughout the world, almost always in industries and applications without appropriate safeguards for workers and for exposed end-users and residents. Unless something is done, and done soon, we are planting the seeds for a continent-wide epidemic of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases which will start soon, peak around 2025, and last well into the second half of this century.

As Laurie Kazan-Allen, Executive Director of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, said,

“… in Japan, thousands of cases of asbestos-related disease have been diagnosed amongst former asbestos workers, railway workers, schoolteachers, insulators and local residents. In Korea, the incidence of asbestos-related disease is also on the rise. There is no question that India, Thailand, the Philippines and other Asian countries will also experience increasing mortality from the avoidable diseases caused by asbestos.”

I was delighted to be invited to make a presentation at this conference on “Transnational Claims: How U.S. Developments Affect Asian Asbestos Victims.” During this talk, I will present information about the global reach of the American asbestos industry, the extent to which it has sold products for use outside the U.S. and Canada, and the prospects for litigation brought in the United States on behalf of foreign victims of American asbestos. In addition, I will describe the process by which dozens of American asbestos manufacturers, contractors, and distributors have been and are being reorganized under the protection of the United States Bankruptcy Courts, the establishment of court-approved Bankruptcy Trust Funds to pay the liabilities of those companies, and the potential for foreign victims of these American companies to obtain some measure of financial compensation from these Trusts.

When the currently pending bankruptcy reorganizations are concluded, there will be over $30 billion of liquid assets in these Trust Funds, which acknowledge responsibility for asbestos exposure at well over 10,000 sites around the world. Undoubtedly, there are at least tens of thousands of additional foreign sites at which American products were used and from which liability might well arise.

The full program schedule is available online.

HB Kazan Global View

Kudos to Amazon.com – Round Two

On March 30, we posted an entry reporting that although the CSI Fingerprint Kit had been dropped from the Amazon web site, the larger CSI Crime Scene Investigation Field Kit, which contained the same asbestos-contaminated powder, was still available. Once again, I wrote to Mr. Hatch in the General Counsel’s office at Amazon.com and it appears that once again, we got a response. The offending products have been taken off the Amazon site and the only remaining Planet Toys Inc. products offered for sale do not appear to contain the asbestos-contaminated powders.

So, since we believe in fairness and recognizing good conduct when it occurs, we once again commend and thank the folks at Amazon.com for responding to our concerns. We hope that they will find a way to build in affirmative protection for their customers rather than having to wait in the future to be alerted to problems such as these. Until they find a way to do that, we can only suggest continued public vigilance. If anyone sees an offending asbestos-contaminated product for sale, please let us know and we will take action on your behalf if you prefer not to try and deal with it directly yourself.

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