Earlier this week an environmental nonprofit group, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, released a study which revealed the presence of asbestos in crayons and crime scene kits commonly used by children. Four of 28 boxes of crayons and two of 21 crime scene fingerprint kits tested positive for asbestos. All of the tainted products could be purchased in retail stores, as well as online.  The six products that contained asbestos were:

  • Amscan Crayons
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons
  • Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons
  • Saban Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons
  • EduScience Deluxe Forensics Kit (black fingerprint powder)
  • Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit (white fingerprint powder)

Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer than affects over 3,000 Americans each year. According to an analysis by the U.K. Committee on Carcinogenicity, children who come into contact with asbestos are 3.5 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than young adults who are exposed, due to the long lag time between exposure and disease development.

The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees that children’s longer life expectancies increase their chances of manifesting latent diseases, as they generally live longer with toxic damage. WHO also notes that children are more susceptible to harm from pollutants because of their immature and developing organs and systems, which create “critical windows of vulnerability,” to damage from toxic exposures that adults simply do not have.

Despite the thousands of lives lost to cancer as a result of asbestos exposure, the United States still has not completely banned the use of asbestos. If the U.S. took a stronger position against this deadly toxin, maybe other countries would stop trying to sell us contaminated products.

Manufactured in China and imported to the United States, the contaminated crayons and crime scene fingerprint kits are a perfect example of the lack of oversight when it comes to the production and import of consumer products.

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Traces of asbestos were found in popular crayon brands in 2000. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that the risk that children would inhale or ingest asbestos fibers from those crayons was extremely low, the manufacturers agreed to change their products’ formulae to omit talc, the mineral that they had used as a binding agent, which is mined from ore that is sometimes contaminated with tremolite asbestos.

And in 2007, asbestos was discovered in the powder of toy crime scene investigation kits. The powder in these kits also contained talc.

While the use of asbestos in American brands has decreased, especially in children’s products, there is no ban or regulation in place that requires consumer products, like children’s toys, to be free of asbestos. This is an alarming fact due to the way children naturally interact with some of the products tested—for example, the powder in the crime scene fingerprint kits could easily be inhaled.

Findings such as those discovered in the EWP Action Fund’s study underscore the importance of banning the use of asbestos in products. We have a duty to protect our children, who rely on us to advocate for them and keep them out of harm’s way.

Whether on a manufacturing or governmental level, changes need to be made to keep the safety of our children intact. You can help make sure that children are not subjected to the dangers of asbestos by signing the EWG Action Fund’s petition to stop sales of contaminated products.

Together, we can keep our children safe.