Asbestos is a toxin commonly found in building materials but, unfortunately, the mineral has also been detected in products marketed to children. This week is Global Asbestos Awareness Week and a perfect opportunity to bust the myth that asbestos is an old man’s problem.
Asbestos has been in the news recently after it was found in makeup products sold at Claire’s, a teen accessory store. In December 2017, the Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI) tested 17 products from stores across the country, including Chicago, Greensboro, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York, Providence, and Seattle. The tests showed talc, which is commonly contaminated with asbestos, in products like blush, eye shadow, and compact powder. In total, makeup kits sold by the company in nine different states tested positive for asbestos without warning labels.
Claire’s later released a statement that after further testing their products were found not to contain asbestos. Due to the contradictory results, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) conducted another test on 15 makeup products containing talc from an approved source, four of these products were from Claire’s. The test found high levels of asbestos in three of the four Claire’s products. The store has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, though it is unclear if the asbestos controversy played a role in that decision making process.
The asbestos seen in Claire’s products is not an anomaly. The cancer causing toxin was found in kids’ crayons and crime scene kits in 2015. According to tests conducted by the EWG Action Fund, four different brands of crayons and two kids’ crime scene fingerprint kits contained asbestos fibers. The tests found asbestos in four of the 28 boxes of crayons tested. According to the results of the testing the following products should be avoided:
- Amscan Crayons Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons
- Nickelodeon Teenage mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons,
- Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons,
- EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit - black fingerprint powder
- Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit - white fingerprint powder
The EWG Action Fund purchased the crayons that tested positive for asbestos between February and May 2015 at two national chains, Party City and Dollar Tree, in a suburban county near San Francisco, and ordered the two crime scene toys containing asbestos from Amazon.com and ToysRUs.com. There is currently no literature stating if the products have been re-tested in the years since 2015.
Unfortunately, asbestos is not uncommon in the country. It’s still legal to use asbestos in the United States and it’s imported by the tons, creating numerous opportunities for Americans to come into contact with the toxin. Mesothelioma develops in the lining of the organs after inhaling asbestos fibers, making products like the fingerprint kits especially problematic. Pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of the cancer, occurs in the lungs, but other forms of the cancer can develop in the heart or abdomen.
There are approximately 3,000 Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and an estimated 20 million people in the U.S. are at risk of developing the disease at some point in their lives. Children are 3.5 times more likely than a 25-year-old to develop mesothelioma, and currently Connecticut is the only state that has banned asbestos in products marketed to those 16 years of age and younger.
In honor of Global Asbestos Awareness Week, share this information with your friends and family. Awareness and education are the best defenses against this preventable cancer.