• Hiding in Plain Sight: Asbestos in Crayons
  • January 16, 2019
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: ACrayons purchased at a Chicago Dollar Tree have tested positive for asbestos. U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, tested six kinds of crayons from various brands. Green Playskool crayons showed trace amounts of the asbestos fiber tremolite.

    How Does Asbestos End Up in Crayons?

    Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is mostly known for its insulating and fire-retardant properties. It was once commonly used in insulating, industrial, and construction products, but why would it be in crayons? The answer is talc.

    Talc is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the earth. Asbestos and talc can be found in close proximity to each other. Crayon manufacturers often use talc as a binder in the wax. Unfortunately, the talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibers. Some manufactures purify the talc to eliminate asbestos contamination, but there is no regulation that requires it. As such, there is the strong possibility that not all manufacturers go through this purification process.

    The Playskool crayons in question were made in China which happens to be one of the world’s primary users of asbestos in manufacturing. Additionally, many talc deposits in China are known to be contaminated by asbestos. China is not bound by the same safety laws as in the United States. The crayons did not have an “approved product” seal from The Art and Creative Materials Institute, a manufacturer’s association that promotes safety standards in art materials.

    Asbestos in Products Marketed for Children

    This is not the first time that asbestos has been found in crayons. In 2000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported finding the mineral in several other brands of crayons. Again in 2015, the Environmental Working Group also found asbestos in crayons manufactured in China and sold to American children.

    Despite the known dangers, manufacturers claimed that asbestos poses no threat when it is contained in crayon wax. The problem with that line of thinking is that everything, including crayons, gets old at some point. The crayons dry out over time causing them to break apart and the asbestos fibers are then released into the air.

    Crayons are not the only product marketed to children found to contain asbestos. Makeup sold at popular tween clothing store Justice was found to be contaminated with asbestos fibers in an investigation conducted by the Scientific Analytical Institute. Like crayons, talc is a common ingredient used in grooming and beauty products, even ones for children.

    As the World Health Organization confirms, there is no safe level of exposure to the known carcinogen asbestos. It has been widely known since the 1930s that it can cause deadly respiratory diseases and cancer. When people come in contact with its asbestos fibers, the mineral can cause:

    • malignant mesothelioma
    • lung cancer, and
    • asbestosis
    Furthermore, the latency period for asbestos-related illnesses is often 30 to 40 years, so children may not show symptoms until their 40s or 50s.bestos in Crayons