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SAFEGUARDS | Toys & Juvenile Products NO. 131/15

SafeGuards crayons

A recently released report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund found a presence of asbestos in children's crayons and toy crime lab kits. The advocacy group calls for legislation to be enacted to regulate the use of asbestos in consumer products, including those for children.

The findings from the EWG Action Fund report came 15 years after the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was alerted to asbestos in crayons and 8 years after asbestos was found in the fingerprint powder of a toy crime scene kit. 

According to the report, crayons and toy crime lab kits that were found to contain asbestos were manufactured in China and imported to the United States (US). It was unclear whether the US companies were responsible for manufacturing the products or whether the use of their trademarks was licensed. The asbestos found in the tested products was most likely to be a contaminant in talc used as a binding agent in crayons and powders in crime scene fingerprint kits.

The EWG report calls for US federal agencies to set rules for asbestos in consumer products:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set clear limits on the use of asbestos in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food and other products that contain talc
  • The CPSC to ban talc in children’s products, including crayons, chalk and fingerprint kits. These measures should be modeled on rules for lead in children’s products where toys are to be tested and certified to demonstrate compliance

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals and is often found in mines alongside talc deposits. It is classified as a known human carcinogen (Group 1 agent) [1] by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). When materials containing asbestos are damaged or disturbed, fibers are released into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they can accumulate and may be trapped in lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibers can cause mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis cancer or lung cancer.

In the US, the use of asbestos in consumer products is regulated in California and Connecticut: 

  • Asbestos has been on the California Proposition 65 (Prop 65) [2] list of chemicals as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer since February 1987. Since its listing, there are known Prop 65 settlements involving asbestos in crayons.
  • Asbestos is prohibited in toys and other articles for children under the age of 16 under Sec.21a-337 of the State Child Protection Act [3] in Connecticut 

Highlights on a Prop 65 settlement for asbestos in crayons, and the restriction of asbestos in children’s products in Connecticut are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1

Jurisdiction

Citation

Substance

Scope

Remark

California

Prop 65

Asbestos

Crayons

Reformulation

Not used (Prohibited)

Connecticut

Chapter 420d

State Child Protection Act

Sec. 21a-337 'Prohibited Acts. Exception'

Asbestos

Toys and other articles for children under the age of 16

Requirement

Prohibited


Throughout our global network of laboratories, we are able to provide a range of services, including analytical testing and consultancy for asbestos and other restricted substances in children's products, including crayons, for the US and international markets. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

For enquiries, please contact:

Hing Wo Tsang
Global Toys and Juvenile Products
t: +852 2774 7420

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