Legislation & Litigation

Lawmakers Urge Retailers to Pull Crayons, Toys with Asbestos

Written By:
Jul 14, 2015
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Written By: Beth Swantek,
July 14, 2015

Two U.S. senators are pointing fingers at four retail giants — Party City, Dollar Tree, Toys “R” Us and Amazon.com — for continuing to stock and sell
children’s toys, including crayons, that allegedly contain deadly asbestos.

Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., sent letters to the chief executive officers at the four retailers last week after the Environmental Working Group Action Fund (EWG) released a report showing traces of asbestos in crayons and crime-scene kits.

“In light of the consumer safety concerns raised by this report, we write to encourage you to voluntarily remove these items from your shelves out of an abundance of caution to protect American children from the serious health risks of asbestos exposure,” Durbin and Markey wrote in the letters.

They asked the retailers to respond by July 22 on whether or not they were willing to pull the items and on what date.

Durbin and Markey penned a fifth letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That letter explained that “parents should not have to play ‘toy box roulette,’ not knowing whether the products they buy for their children will seriously sicken or injure them.”

Retailers Respond to Allegations of Asbestos in Toys

Representatives for Dollar Tree, Party City and Toy “R” Us issued statements to CNN after the release of the EWG report.

Here are the comments from the different companies:

  • Amscan (owns Party City): “Amscan is dedicated to ensuring that all of its products meet or exceed federal, state and municipal requirements. To this end, Amscan conducts compliance testing of its suppliers’ products by using nationally recognized product testing organizations. Any product that fails to meet governmental or Amscan’s
    standards will not be distributed or sold. We take these types of matters very seriously and are investigating further.”
  • Toys “R” Us: “The safety of our customers is, and always has been, our highest priority. We take this responsibility very seriously. We require that every product we carry meets or exceeds all applicable state and federal laws, industry standards, codes and requirements,” spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said. “At this time, we are reviewing the referenced report, along with supplier test reports, to ensure full compliance to our strict safety standards.”
  • Dollar Tree: “The safety of our customers is paramount and we work constantly to ensure our suppliers’ products are compliant and safe,” Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations, wrote in a statement. “To that end, we have a very robust and stringent test program, which includes working with independent CPSC-accredited testing companies to ensure our suppliers’ products meet all safety and legal standards.”

The CNN report shows Amazon and Buy-Rite, also mentioned in the EWG report, could not be reached for comment at the time the news organization published its story.

So far, none of the retailers have announced if they pulled the allegedly contaminated merchandise from their inventories.

Tougher Proposals Against Asbestos Are Pending

Markey and Durbin’s letters follow the Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act, a bill the two senators proposed earlier this year.

If passed, the READ Act would require modernization of the reporting requirements of the Asbestos Information Act so consumers could have transparent, accessible, and up-to-date information on which products contain asbestos and where they can be found.

Most consumers are unaware many products in the U.S. legally contain asbestos. The national database would make that information available to everyone online.

In addition to those efforts, Markey and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in March introduced the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act. That bill seeks to ban asbestos in the U.S. and calls for stronger safety standards and quicker safety reviews of chemicals.

Reinstein, former president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, died of mesothelioma in 2006. Schaefer is victim of toxic exposure and a brain cancer survivor.

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