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article imageOp-Ed: Crayons found to contain asbestos, sparks health warning

By Tim Sandle     Jul 9, 2015 in Health
A consumer group has triggered an alert after asbestos was found in children's crayons and a toy lab kit. The products were imported into the U.S. from China and not checked by a range of major retail outlets.
A consumer rights group called the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Action Fund is pressing for a ban on asbestos in all consumer products, especially those marketed at children. This comes after laboratory testing discovered traces of asbestos in packs of children's crayons as well toy crime lab kits, marketed as educational aids for school kids. EWG ran similar surveys in 2000 and 2007 and found products to be similarly affected. Seven to eight years on, it seems risks remain.
EWG spokesperson, Sonya Lunder, told Yahoo Parenting: "This is a chemical known to kill people. So it’s not good news that every seven years we have to have an asbestos scare like this."
Asbestos is a general term for six naturally occurring silicate minerals. The three main types are blue, brown and white asbestos. They are fibrous materials, once used for their strength, adaptability and resistance to fire. It was later discovered that prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers can trigger serious and fatal illnesses. These include malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Importantly, there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure. For these reasons, most countries prohibited the use of asbestos substances.
In independent tests, four out of 28 boxes of colored crayons were found to contains traces of asbestos. Two of 21 toy kits were also found to contain the carcinogenic substance. The offending products were manufactured in China and imported into the U.S. The crayons of concern were:
Amscan Crayons,
Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,
Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons,
Power Rangers Super Megaforce.
The toy science kits were:
Edu Science Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit,
Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit.
Disturbingly these products were readily available from retailers like Amazon and ToysRUs. Although the manufacturer has undertaken some unethical practices, the findings suggest a control failure on the part of U.S. customs and with the retailers who sold the products. Although the retailers did not manufacture the products, a system of quality checks should be in place and retailers should be aware of the company they are purchasing from. This extends to labor rights as well as to the base materials for manufacture.
Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Jerry Paulson, ex-chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Environmental Health, told news outlet CNN: "Parents do need to be concerned about particular brands of products where asbestos was identified." To add to this, Scott Wolfson, communications director at the U.S. Product Safety Commission, told Environmental Health News that the U.S. government is taking the finding "very seriously."
Most of the world has banned the use of asbestos in buildings and materials. It would seem that China has not addressed this issue. Those purchasing products manufactured in parts of the world where concern for dangerous chemicals is not robust should check that the goods they buy, be they children's toys or other items, are safe.
The group behind the campaign - EWG - has a remit to "empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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