Asbestos is a carcinogen that was commonly used several decades ago as a fire-retardant. However, once it was discovered that inhaling asbestos can cause serious health risks, such as cancer and breathing problems, the use of asbestos was discontinued (but not made illegal for all uses, surprisingly enough). However, an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that many children’s crayons still contain asbestos to this day.
The EWG crayon report
The EWG Action Fund took samples of four brands of children’s crayons sold in 2015. All four of the brands tested contained fibers of asbestos. Children can inhale the fibers while using the crayons, as the inhalation of small crayon shavings is common while coloring with crayons. Any child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 times more likely than an adult to develop a lung disease caused by asbestos exposure known as mesothelioma.
The following are the four crayons tested by the EWG:
Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons (manufactured by Greenbrier International, Inc.)
Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons (manufactured by MII Inc.)
Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons (manufactured by Greenbrier International, Inc.)
Amscan Crayons (manufactured by Amscan)
In previous investigations, asbestos fibers have also been found in other crayon brands, including Crayola, Rose Art, and Prang.
The dangers of asbestos exposure
Asbestos has been linked to several serious health conditions, including mesothelioma, cancer, lung scarring and respiratory problems.
According to a report released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (part of the United States Department of Labor):
“There is no ‘safe’ level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber. Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans. Every occupational exposure to asbestos can cause injury or disease; every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes to the risk of getting an asbestos related disease.”
Although children using crayons is hardly an occupation, there is legitimate concern that crayons could cause asbestos poisoning in children.
crayonsWhat can caregivers do to minimize risk?
In 2000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted its own study to determine the precise risk level of crayons containing asbestos. The researchers concluded that because the fibers are embedded in the wax, the risk of asbestos damage is low. A simulated study of a child vigorously coloring for half an hour did not produce any asbestos fibers in the air. However, although the risk may be low, it is still there, which poses the question, why is asbestos, known to pose a serious health risk to humans, in children’s products at all?
Here are some ways caregivers can minimize the risk from crayon use:
Making your own crayons at home with powdered pigments and melted carnauba wax.
Instructing children to not eat crayons.
Encouraging light coloring rather than heavy scrawling.
Looking for brands that are not on the asbestos blacklist or are made with all-natural materials.
Try coloring with colored pencils instead.
Do you worry about chemicals and asbestos in children’s products? Many products made for children contain toxic materials. When shopping for children’s products, look for brands that are eco-friendly and toxin-free.