Asbestos in Children’s Crayons

Over the last 6 months Australian Government authorities have confirmed findings of asbestos crayons, marketed to children. They have confirmed that a number of lines of children’s crayons imported from China have been found to contain the asbestos fibres. All products that tested positive were made in China, by the Chinese company Amscan.

While there is no definite answer as to how the contamination of these asbestos crayons occurred, it’s thought that it could stem from a contaminant of the talc used as a binding agent.

The children’s crayons found to contain asbestos fibres were sold by Officeworks and marketed with cartoon characters, including Peppa Pig and Dora the Explorer. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) indicated that 6 different packets of crayons contained items that were found to have traces of asbestos.

This is obviously worrying for the parents of young families and those whose children have used these products. It is a concern that has been shared by those in other countries faced with the same health scare.

A small comfort provided by the ACCC is that the asbestos was found to exist in the crayon wax. Wax, paint or similar agents can often preventing the fibres from becoming airborne and therefore inhaled or ingested during their normal use.

The UK committee on Carcinogenicity has indicated that:

“Because of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age 5 compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about 5 times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.”

Definitely sobering statistics for anyone with a young family.

Stores selling the contaminated products were asked to remove the items from their shelves and to offer refunds to those who have bought the items. Australian Border Force was even alerted to the importing of the potentially dangerous products and halted the import of the Chinese made products. Import is halted until there are sufficient assurances provided by importers / manufacturers as to the safety of the products.

A recall of the products has been deemed unnecessary by the ACCC, however stores have been recommended to stop selling the items, including the asbestos crayons, until further notice.

Parents who believe their child may have been exposed, may want to consider the ACCC statement on the asbestos crayons. You can read this statement here.

It has been accepted for some time that exposure to the smallest amount of asbestos dust some 20 to 30 years ago has the potential to result in a diagnosis of an asbestos related disease, including the incurable cancer, mesothelioma.

There is no rhyme or reason as to why some people with minimal exposure (low dose cases) develop the cancer and why some people who may have worked with considerable quantities of the asbestos materials are left unharmed.

Further, the prognosis for those that are diagnosed with mesothelioma is incredibly bleak, with life expectancies of between 12 to 18 months from the date of diagnosis.

If you believe you or a family member may have been exposed to asbestos, the best approach to take for now is to record all the details – in case there is a development of an asbestos related disease in the future.

It is best to keep records of:

  1. Where the exposure occurred,
  2. When the exposure occurred,
  3. How the exposure occurred,
  4. Any identifiable features of the material to which you were exposed. I.e. labels, product stamps and specific textures of the product (as is often the case with building materials).

The frustrating thing in relation to exposure to asbestos dust and fibres, is that there is no way of knowing immediately after exposure as to the likely effects of that exposure. In fact immediately after exposure, radiological evidence will not provide any indication or evidence as to an injury.

Unless and until radiological evidence exists, there is no medical ‘injury’ as such and therefore no ‘compensable injury’. It therefore becomes a waiting game.

It is therefore a worrying thought, that after all these years of fighting the manufacturers of asbestos building materials and asbestos industrial products, we could potentially be allowing the most innocent members of our society to be exposed to these deadly fibres.

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