Is There Asbestos in My Children’s Toys?

By Cristina M. in Health

Asbestos, a highly toxic mineral linked with causing a few frightening cancerous diseases takes the lives of approximately 15,000 people in the United States over the course of one year. In today's society, asbestos-related diseases are hardly a surprise anymore, since they have been confirmed to be the deadly consequences of occupations that over long periods of time have consistently created a toxic environment for the workers, such as textiles and construction. However, reports finding the dangerous mineral in items children usually play with, like crayons, sent the country into a new wave of panic. All the toys that tested positive for asbestos were imported from China, which represents one of the biggest economic powers that still heavily employs the use of asbestos, coming second only to Russia, which fills the position at the top.

Testing Toys for Asbestos

A series of tests were conducted under the authority of the Environmental Working Group, otherwise known as the EWG, showed that among the toys made in China there were crayons and crime lab kits that tested positive for two types of asbestos, tremolite and chrysotile. The products in which asbestos was found are the following:

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

Each product that tested positive for asbestos also contained talc, and researchers linked the contamination to the presence of both of these two components. Talc and asbestos, from a geological point of view, have their origin in the same kind of parent rock. Thus, even if asbestos ceased to be mined for a few decades now, it continues to be extracted from sediments in which it is naturally mixed with talc.

Talc in itself is not considered a danger, it only becomes so when it is laced with asbestos. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for it to be used in a purified state. The researchers that oversaw the testing of the toys found talc interwoven with the fibrous mineral in the composition of some of the imported crayons and in the powder from a few imported crime scene fingerprint sets, the latter posing more of a threat than the former due to the fact that it can be easily inhaled by children.

Toys and Asbestos Exposure

It was a study from 2000 that first confirmed there were traces of asbestos in crayons. The verdict reached was that the quantity used in the products was not enough to become life-threatening. As a result of this investigation, no new regulations were imposed for the crayon manufacturing industries. However, ever since that discovery, opposing opinions continue to speak about the dangers of asbestos and to militate for it to be completely removed from children's toys.

The fact remains that there is not one single documented case of a child affected by an asbestos-related disease due to them playing with crayons, but there are voices that point to the young ages of the children in question and the scientifically proven long latency period of such illnesses as being vital elements to consider when drawing conclusions about a diagnosis. This is an extremely delicate situation, because when asbestos is found in houses, homeowners can use a professional company to remove asbestos, or they can do it themselves. Unfortunately, this cannot be done with toys. It seems that prevention may the only course of action. The current official policy on asbestos in the United States permits the use of the toxin as long as it stays within the limit of 1% of a product.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.