Origins: On 23 May 2000, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an article announcing the discovery of asbestos in certain brands of children's crayons; specifically, Crayola, Prang, and Rose Art. This accusation sparked a firestorm of debate, with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer standing by the findings of its independent lab analysis, and
The article that kicked off this controversy claimed asbestos had been found in three of the eight brands (Crayola, Prang, and Rose Art) that it checked for the presence of this carcinogen. Of the
Binney & Smith asserted the results must have been interpreted wrongly and that it had been common in the past for some labs to misidentify talc fibres as asbestos. The Art and Creative Materials Institute (a trade association paid to certify such materials as non-toxic) insisted the results must be wrong. "There is no asbestos in crayons," said Debbie Fanning, the institute's executive
On 12 June 2000, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) released the results of its tests. The CPSC found "a trace amount of asbestos in two Crayola crayons made by Binney and Smith and one Prang crayon made by Dixon Ticonderoga" but stated that "the amount of asbestos is so small it is scientifically insignificant."
In Crayola crayons and Prang crayons, CPSC also found larger amounts of another fiber, called "transitional" fiber, which is similar in appearance to asbestos fiber. While there are potential concerns about these fibers if children are exposed to them, CPSC tests concluded that the ingestion risk to children through either inhalation or ingestion is extremely low and there is no scientific basis for a recall.
As vital the question of asbestos in crayons is, another question eclipses it: If it were there, would it do any harm? Asbestos is not a deadly poison, the mere touch of which will prove
Asbestos is only dangerous when it's deteriorated to the point where its tiny fibers can be released into the air and inhaled. If the material is solid (in appearance and to touch) and maintained in good condition, it presents no problem.
What's a parent to do? Listen to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. According to that august body, the risk of exposure to the fibers from using crayons is low. In a simulation of a child vigorously coloring with a crayon for half an hour, no fibers were found in the air. The risk of exposure by eating crayons is also low because the fibers are imbedded in wax and pass through a child's body. However, CPSC concluded that these fibers should not continue to be used in children's crayons in the long term.
CPSC tests concluded that there is no cause for concern. Parents and teachers can continue to use the crayons they have and purchase crayons from store shelves.
The CPSC has asked industry to reformulate crayons using substitute ingredients. Binney and Smith and Dixon Ticonderoga quickly volunteered to reformulate within a year to eliminate the fibers. Rose Art, which has only a small percentage of crayons made with talc, also agreed to reformulate.
Barbara "the truth, asbestos I can figure out" Mikkelson
| CPSC Releases Test Results on Crayons |
(Consumer Product Safety Commission)
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Ho, David. "Asbestos-Like Fibers in Crayons." The Associated Press. 13 June 2000. Loviglio, Joann. "Crayola Stands by Asbestos Test Results." The Associated Press. 31 May 2000. MacLeod, Ian. "Health Canada to Inspect Crayons After U.S. Tests Find Asbestos Link." The Ottawa Citizen. 30 May 2000 (p. A1). Schneider, Andrew and Carol Smith. "Manufacturers Surprised, Concerned by P-I Findings." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 23 May 2000 (p. A1).