Asbestos in Crayons: Should You Be Worried?

Four brands of crayons tested positive.

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund tested 28 boxes of crayons and 21 children’s toy crime scene kits for asbestos.

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The tragic result of asbestos exposure strikes close to home for me. Asbestos killed my grandfather, who was a pipe coverer, and his wife, who shook his work clothes out before putting them in the wash. My father, who worked alongside my grandfather, has lung scarring from asbestos and is the only survivor of the group of men who spent their working years using it.

Despite the devastating effects of asbestos, it’s still around. And according the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, it’s as close as a crayon box.

EWG Finds Asbestos in Children’s Products

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund tested 28 boxes of crayons and 21 children’s toy crime scene kits for asbestos. Scientific Analytical Institute, Greensboro, N.C., tested the products for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy. Any samples that tested positive were then sent to a second laboratory.

Four brands of crayons tested positive at both laboratories. They include:

  • Amscan Crayons by Amscan
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons by Greenbriar International Inc.
  • Nickelondean Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by MII Inc.
  • Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce by Greenbriar International Inc.

In addition, two crime scene kits tested positive.

  • EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit – black fingerpint powder by Toys R Us
  • Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit – white fingerprint powder by Buy-Rite.

All of the tainted toys were from imported from China.

What’s the Risk?

Inhalation of even small amounts of asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancer of the lungs and other organs. Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans, according to OSHA.

For these products, the highest risk comes from the fingerprint kits. These contain fine powders that could easily be inhaled. The risk is less clear for the crayons because the fibers are embedded in wax.

When a similar study came out in 2000, the brands Crayola, Prang and RoseArt all showed traces of asbestos. (If you visit the Snopes.com entry on asbestos and crayons, it refers to the 2000 findings, not those just released.) At that time, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that the risk was “extremely low” but asked the crayon industry to stop using talc (the source of the asbestos) in its products. In this new study, Crayola crayons tested negative for asbestos. Prang and Rose Art crayons were not tested.

Recommendations

As a parent, here’s how I interpret these findings. The crime scene kits pose the highest risk and I will avoid them. The crayons don’t pose any known risk, but they’re low quality products. I’ve always preferred the quality of Crayola crayons, which are made in the United States and no longer contain asbestos fibers. It’s a simple choice to go with a better product that eliminates any risk.

What do you think of this new report? Do you own any of the products that tested positive for asbestos? Will you continue to use them or throw them away? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Carrie Adkins-Ali

Carrie Adkins-Ali is executive editor of the monthly publication Health News, produced by Belvoir Media Group with Duke Health. She's also a contributor to University Health News and former Daily … Read More

View all posts by Carrie Adkins-Ali

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