When you give a child crayons to color with or a crime-scene fingerprinting set to nurture his or her inner investigator, the last thing you probably consider is that these toys may be harming the child. But, according to new research from the Environmental Working Group Action Fund some of these toys have been found to contain the well-established carcinogen, asbestos.
The group’s tests showed that four brands of children’s crayons and two brands of crime scene fingerprinting kits contain the deadly asbestos fibers. That’s alarming news considering that exposure to even trace amounts of asbestos can cause cancer and other deadly diseases since there is no safe amount of asbestos.
What’s worse: the U.K. Committee on Carcinogenicity indicates that a child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 times more likely than a 25-year-old to develop the asbestos-caused lung disease known as mesothelioma due to the length of time between exposure and diagnosis.
Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York told EWG Action Fund: “Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children, today as it did in 2000 and 2007, the last time tests found the deadly substance in these children’s products.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos is made up of minerals that form bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. Because the fibers are heat and fire-resistant, and do not conduct electricity, they are widely used in many industries since the late 1800s. Most people believe that asbestos has been banned due to its having been established as a carcinogen many years ago, but it is still in widespread use. According to the EWG Action Fund, it kills an estimated 15,000 Americans every year.
The National Cancer Institute indicates that U.S. manufacturers of crayons agreed to eliminate talc from their products since talc is the asbestos-containing culprit. But the EWG Action Fund’s research suggests that for some crayon manufacturers, talk is cheap.
If asbestos fibers are disturbed through contact with products containing it, the microscopic fibers are released into the air where they are breathed in and become trapped in the lungs. Over time, an accumulation of asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring, and increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer of the thin membranes that line the abdomen and chest; it is the most common cancer linked to asbestos exposure. It can take one to four decades for asbestos-related illnesses to present themselves.
Other Places Asbestos is Found
The National Cancer Institute indicates that asbestos can be found in:
Boilers, steam pipes and hot water pipes used in shipbuilding
Brake shoes and clutch pads in the automotive industry
Floor and ceiling tiles
Paints and adhesives
Sound absorption materials
Vermiculite-containing garden products