Latest Toy Hazard: Asbestos

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, a group created by asbestos victims and their families, bought products from national retailers and had them tested at independent labs. One of the most disturbing findings was high levels of asbestos in powder from a toy CSI fingerprint kit. The powder is intended to be sprinkled on surfaces and brushed with a soft-bristle brush – creating conditions ripe for inhalation.

Andrew Schneider reports on the group’s findings in the Seattle P-I, and notes that CBS, which licenses the kit, has asked its licensees to have the kits tested immediately and to remove the toy from the market if it’s found to be unsafe.

Why is a small organization – which spent more than $165,000 getting products tested at government-certified labs – taking on the job of policing consumer products? Schneider explains:

“We had to. No one else was doing it,” said Linda Reinstein, the group’s co-founder and executive director. “This is information that consumers and Congress must have because asbestos is lethal and we naively believe that the government is protecting us, when it’s not.”

[…]

After reporting its findings at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday morning, the organization says it will submit its testing information to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA.
“The government really needs to act responsibly and honestly and understand that political compromises have no meaning to a family devastated by an asbestos cancer,” Harbut said.

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s Reinstein says, “The government has to do its job.”

“There is no reason at all for the American consumer to pull a product off the market shelf and wonder whether it has asbestos in it that can kill them or their family. Just no reason at all,” Reinstein said. Her husband, Alan, died of mesothelioma last year.

The ADAO isn’t the only group taking matters into its own hands. Recently, the Center for Environmental Health and U.S. Public Interest Research Group conducted tests on dozens of toys and reported that several had high lead levels. In some cases, such efforts have prompted responses from the retailers, manufacturers, and/or licensing companies associated with tainted toys. The groups’ success, though, relies largely on their ability to attract media attention, and at some point reporters and editors may decide they’ve had enough stories about tainted toys. (It’s not just toys, of course: ADAO found several home-improvement products that came up with worrisome asbestos levels.)

In this enormously wealthy country, we shouldn’t have to rely on a handful of nonprofit groups to ensure the safety of the products we buy. We should have a strong, well-funded Consumer Product Safety Commission. Until we do, we’ll have to be cautious about what we buy and grateful to advocacy groups for filling in some of the gaps.

Comments

  1. #1 Celeste Monforton
    November 30, 2007

    Here’s a link showing a photograph of the toy.

    https://shop2.mailordercentral.com/speedydog/prodinfo.asp?number=sdcsi-finger

    The description says: “The CSI Fingerprint Exam Kit comes with everything you need for on the scene action! Kit includes: fingerprinting brush, clear acetate, specimen tweezers, crime scene tape, 5 evidence bags, 5 flap lifters, 2 fingerprint stamps, ink pad, black ink, magnifying glass, crime scene notebook, 1 pair gloves, crime scene diagram stencil, red dry/erase marker, 2 FINGERPRINT DUSTING POWDERS, and fingerprint identification card portfolio. Collect, examine and record fingerprints with Grissom’s CSI team! For ages 10 and up. (emphasis added).

    Who’s Grissom? The toy manufacturer?

  2. #2 Liz
    November 30, 2007

    Gil Grissom is a character on CSI (according to Wikipedia).

  3. #3 Brett
    November 30, 2007

    thats absolutely incredible work by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization- Interesting comments by Art Skill’s- based in easton about 40 minutes from my hometown- might be taking a personal trip down there for christmas…I wonder how “vigorous” they’re being

  4. #4 kevmoore
    November 30, 2007

    I should think the latest Toy Hazard is calling a teddy bear Mohammed….

  5. #5 Hank Roberts
    December 3, 2007

    What’s the powder — talc, often contaminated with asbestos?

    http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_103.html

  6. #6 Liz
    December 4, 2007

    I haven’t seen specifics about the powder anywhere, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that talc’s involved.

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