A private organization using independent laboratories has repeatedly found asbestos in several household products, including powder in the CSI Fingerprint Investigation Kit, a popular toy that invites children to get their faces close to the potentially hazardous particles. The CSI toys tested were made in China and purchased at Toys "R" Us.
There are no U.S. standards for limiting or eliminating the use of asbestos in consumer products, though there is a ban on building products with asbestos concentrations of greater than 1%. CBS Consumer Products and Planet Toys told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the CSI toy met all U.S. safety standards, but that they would remove it from the market if it is hazardous.
The Washington-based Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization testing also found asbestos in these home improvement products:
The items listed here tested positive for asbestos in three independent tests. Other products also had positive results, but not three times. Among them: toy play clay made in China and Thailand; prepackaged U.S. potting soil; hair rollers, kitchen appliances and kerosene lantern wicks from China; cosmetics from France; baking flour, bicycle tire patch and powdered household cleaners from unspecified locations. The group did not publicize the brand names of those products.
"It is so unfortunately ironic that it would actually be illegal to have more than 1% in building products, but not to be in a children's toy or a household consumer good," said Doug Larkin, communications director for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which was formed by the family members of people who had died from asbestos-related cancers. About 40 nations around the world have banned asbestos completely, Larkin said.
"I try to (consider not) whether it's against the law. I ask myself, 'Is it against common sense?' Larkin said. "What mother and father, what aunt and uncle, what niece and nephew would buy a product for a loved one that would cause a terminal illness?"
The Environmental Protection Agency notes on its Website that "many products are in use today that contain asbestos" but its list of products focuses exclusively on construction materials. The list of toys and home improvement products that contain asbestos, therefore, will likely come as a surprise to most consumers.
The testing did not specifically seek to determine if the asbestos found in the products posed a risk of exposure, but in some cases, like the CSI fingerprinting powder, it's not hard to imagine that the asbestos could be breathed in. Asbestos has been confirmed to cause serious lung ailments, including cancer, but the risk is primarily thought to be to those who are repeatedly exposed, such as construction workers.
The testing cost the small group $165,000. Results were forwarded to the EPA and the Consumer Product Commission, but the companies that manufacture, import or distribute the suspect products were not notified before the results were made public.
"It's the company's responsibility to be testing their products," Larkin asserted. "If they're going to build a brand name in the consumer base, they have to protect that consumer base. You can't just build a brand and have everybody love your product and not get your hand slapped if that product causes terminal illness."
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