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Safe school supplies: 4 FAQs on crayons and asbestos concerns

As it becomes time again to stock up on supplies for the upcoming school year, parents should continue to pay careful attention to the products they are buying.

One recent news story served as a good reminder. This year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group tested several crayon brands for toxic substances. They found that Playskool crayons sold at Dollar Tree stores contain trace amounts of asbestos.

Here are four FAQs on the asbestos-containing crayons.

Why is asbestos harmful?

Asbestos is a known carcinogen. It was once widely used in a wide variety of industrial products, building materials, car parts and other commodities due to its insulation and fire-retardant nature.

Individual asbestos fibers are tiny. Hundreds of thousands of the fibers would fill the cap of a standard writing pen. When asbestos fibers enter the lungs, even in small amounts, it can cause a cancer known as mesothelioma, lung cancer, or even a few other forms of cancer. There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.

Are other crayons affected?

In an improvement from a few years ago, the U.S. PRIG found no other brands of crayons tested contained asbestos.

Why would there be asbestos in crayons?

Crayons likely became contaminated with asbestos in the process of mining the talc used to bind the elements of the crayon together.

Since talc mines often have asbestos deposits in them, crayons containing talc can end up with asbestos fibers in them.

This is the same explanation for the recent rise in lawsuits alleging the use of talcum powder/baby powder made by manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson led to individuals developing and dying from mesothelioma.

Should I be worried if I already bought these crayons for my child?

When dealing with asbestos, the safe thing to do is err on the safe side. Throw the crayons away. The cost to replace them is nothing compared to the risk.

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