It is now commonplace to read about Chinese products pulled from foreign markets for impurities or harmful chemicals due to the corruption and lack of consumer protections in that country. The most frightening such cases however involve products for children like the latest story involving the discovery of asbestos in crayons and toy crime lab kits. It appears that the first fun task in using Chinese crime lab kits is to locate the deadly carcinogen in your toy.
Asbestos was found in 4 of 28 boxes of crayons by the EWG Action Fund, a sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The testing also confirmed asbestos in 2 of 21 toy crime lab kits it evaluated.
The Chinese made the products for Amscan Crayons purchased at Party City as well as Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons and Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce boxes purchased at Dollar Tree. The two toy crime lab kits with contaminants included the black fingerprint powder in the Edu Science Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit, purchased at ToysRUs.com, and the white fingerprint powder from the Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit, purchased on Amazon.com.
The report said three types of asbestos — tremolite, chrysotile and anthophyllite. The asbestos is believed to have been introduced as a contaminant of talc, used as a binding agent in the crayons and in powder in the toy crime lab kits. Asbestos is often found next to talc deposits in China.
Now here is the really scary fact. While it is hardly news that China has a horrendous food and product safety system, it is also true that there are no laws specifically governing asbestos in children’s products. While the EPA in 1989 issued a ban on most asbestos-containing products. That regulation was overturned in 1991 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Corrosion Proof Fittings v. the Environmental Protection Agency. The supporters of the asbestos industry argued that, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA had to use the “least burdensome” means to achieve its goal and asbestos regulation is a far less burdensome option than a ban.
The current rules only require a labeling that the toy or product contains asbestos.