According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated eleven million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978. Asbestos has a latency period of twenty to fifty years. This means that despite strict asbestos regulations since 1979, thousands of people will continue to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. In fact, there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma reported each and every year.
A recent report conducted by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund revealed that deadly asbestos fibers may be lurking in children’s toys. The group’s study tested different brands of crayons and crime scene kits. Ultimately, it found asbestos fibers in four of the twenty-eight boxes of crayons tested, and in two of the twenty-one crime scene kits tested. Although the group only tested international brands, focusing primarily on China-made toys, the group suspects that domestic-made toys may pose a similar concern.
Although the tests revealed only microscopic amounts of asbestos in the children’s toys, Asbestos.com reports that even this small amount could prove problematic. According to Dr. Richard Lemen, former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, children are more vulnerable to toxic material because they have a longer latency period in which to develop these asbestos-related diseases. Some asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, can take twenty to even fifty years after exposure to develop. Even if it is only a small risk, no risks should be taken when it comes to the safety of children’s toys.
The study was commissioned after a 2009 class action lawsuit filed by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization against CBS and major retailers. That lawsuit focused on a toy fingerprint kit based on the CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The toy was recalled in 2007 after the organization discovered traces of asbestos in the kit. Most asbestos contamination is linked to the use of talc, a binding agent that is widely used in crayons, modeling clay and in the crime scene kits that were tested in the study. Talc is also used in makeup and pharmaceuticals. Asbestos is often found in mines alongside talc, making cross-contamination likely.
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