When it was first discovered that asbestos caused, among a number of horrific diseases, mesothelioma, there was a huge cultural and legal push to have it removed from manufacturing, construction, and other industries where it was prevalent. Steps were taken to remove it from schools, homes, and office buildings.
This doesn’t mean, however, that asbestos is completely gone from our society. It still lurks in many older buildings, where it was used as an extremely efficient and fire-retardant insulation. Some industries still use it for those purposes. One place it wasn’t expected to be found, however, was in crayons and toy kits being sold in the US. According to an Environmental Working Group Action Fund report, four brands of crayons contained asbestos, as well as two brands of crime-scene toy kits.
The author of the study said that she was very surprised to have found this dangerous material in items that are obviously intended for children, especially considering that the earlier a person is exposed to asbestos, the more likely they are to develop an asbestos-related disease later in life. She was also surprised because asbestos was found in these items years ago and the manufacturers of these toys promised that the problem would be properly dealt with.
The study reports that all of the items found to be containing asbestos were made in China, which is part of why figuring out where the asbestos is coming from and enforcing measures to have it removed from these items is so difficult.
Why is asbestos so dangerous? The small, invisible fibers are easy to inhale. Once the fibers are in the lungs, they cause scarring and inflammation that makes it difficult to breathe, which eventually may contribute to lung cancer and can develop into mesothelioma, which is one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers in the world.
The EWG report says that the crayons and kits were purchased on American soil, early in 2015. Testing was then conducted both by the EWG and then confirmed by an independent laboratory. They concluded the study saying that there is no such thing as a safe number of asbestos fibers in the lung, and even limited exposure puts a person at a high risk of developing a disease.