Toys ‘R’ Us, Other Retailers Remove Asbestos Crayons

Crayons with Asbestos

Toys “R” Us, Party City, Amazon.com and Dollar Tree answered lawmakers’ urgent call to pull toxic asbestos crayons and crime lab toys from their inventory.

The major retailers acted after learning certain children’s products tested positive for asbestos, a carcinogen that causes several deadly diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, which can take 20-50 years to develop after first exposure.

“We commend these four companies for their good corporate citizenship and commitment to protecting children and families from contaminated products,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wrote in a press release.

Asbestos.com reached out to the four retailers, but none responded.

Report Targets Tainted Toys

Last month, a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund revealed that select crayon sets and toy fingerprint kits imported from China contained talc tainted with carcinogenic asbestos fibers. Both substances are often found near each other on the earth’s surface. Their proximity sometimes results in contamination when mining talc.

In addition to pulling the asbestos crayons, Markey’s office said some retailers retested the products themselves. Officials for the companies also asked their suppliers to reformulate the products without the deadly mineral.

Party City encouraged Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to set a federal standard for asbestos levels in crayons.

EWG Report Named Specific Products

According to the EWG report, tremolite or chrysotile asbestos fibers were found in:

  • Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit (Buy-Rite)
  • EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit (Toys “R” Us)
  • Saban Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons (Greenbrier International)
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons (Greenbrier International)
  • Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crayons (MII Inc.)
  • Amscan Crayons (Amscan)

Healthychild, an EWG website dedicated to child safety, recommends parents purchase crayons manufactured in the U.S.

Brands such as Crayola and Rose Art produce talc-free products, the website shows. Healthychild also urges parents to make sure fingerprint kits use only cocoa or cornstarch as the dusting powder.

Not the First Time Asbestos Is Found in Toys

Unfortunately, asbestos in crayons is not new.

The CPSC has known about the presence of toxic fibers in some toys for 15 years, Healthychild reports. Surprisingly, this is legal in all but one state. Only Connecticut bans asbestos in children’s toys.

“The CPSC should ban talc from children’s products and issue a rule on asbestos modeled on the existing rules for lead or phthalates in toys. We need greater access to information about where asbestos is present in everyday products,” Markey wrote in his press release.

Asbestos exposure leads to more than 3,000 new mesothelioma cases each year in the U.S.

The deadly cancer affects the thin lining that surrounds the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity. Most people live an average of one year after diagnosis.

Pending Legislation to Protect the Public

Sens. Markey and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are working toward stricter asbestos regulation.

Both introduced The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act in March.  If passed, this means all asbestos-containing products, as well as their manufacturing locations throughout the country, would be listed on a pubic online database.

Markey also teamed up with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on a bill to ban asbestos in the U.S. The Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act seeks to ban the deadly substance and calls for tighter restrictions of hazardous chemicals.

  1. Office of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. (2015, August 7). Senators Markey, Durbin Applaud Companies for Stopping Sale of Children’s Products Contaminated with Asbestos. Retrieved from http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/sens-markey-durbin-applaud-companies-for-stopping-sale-of-childrens-products-contaminated-with-asbestos
  2. Office of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. (2015, July 8). Senators Markey & Durbin Call for Action on Asbestos in Children’s Products. Retrieved from http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/-senators-markey-and-durbin-call-for-action-on-asbestos-in-childrens-products
  3. AsbestosNation.org (2015). Tests Find Asbestos in Kids’ Crayons, Crime Scene Kits. Retrieved from http://www.asbestosnation.org/facts/tests-find-asbestos-in-kids-crayons-crime-scene-kits/#fullreport
  4. Boyle, M. (2015, July 8). Is asbestos in your children’s toys? Retrieved from http://www.healthychild.org/is-asbestos-in-your-childrens-toys/

Beth Swantek has been writing professionally for 30 years. She is a former news reporter and anchor for a CBS affiliate in Michigan and often reported breaking medical and political news. Currently, she teaches media writing and video production at Lawrence Technological University in the Detroit area, as well as working as a freelance writer and producer.

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