From: Robina Suwol
Date: 05 Dec 2007
Remote Name: 220.127.116.11
Asbestos turns up in toys, children's clay
DIYers who use duct tape, spackle, roof sealer also at risk of exposure
By ANDREW SCHNEIDER P-I SENIOR CORRESPONDENT
Asbestos has been found in a variety of consumer products, including one of this season's biggest-selling Christmas toys, according to the nation's largest asbestos victims organizations. The CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit, two brands of children's play clay, powdered cleanser, roof sealers, duct tapes, window glazing, spackling paste and small appliances were among the products in which asbestos was found by at least two of three labs hired by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The group, which was created in 2004 by asbestos victims and their families, spent more than $165,000 to have government-certified laboratories examine hundreds of consumer products over 18 months to determine whether asbestos was present. It is unusual for a group of volunteers, many of whom have asbestos-caused diseases, to fund research that impacts public health. "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." The product that is of greatest concerns to some public health experts is the fingerprint kit, which is a huge seller, according to sales personnel interviewed by the Seattle P-I. The kit, made in China, is one of several items licensed by CBS after its popular "CSI" science-crime shows. This model has an extensive array of plastic tools, inks and three types of very fine powders -- white, black and glow-in-the-dark. The analysis done for the victim's organization found high levels of two types of asbestos in the white and the glow powder. Physicians are especially concerned because of the significant likelihood of children breathing in asbestos fibers as they hunt for fingerprints and use a soft-bristled brush to move the powder around. CBS Consumer Products responded quickly when told of the reported contamination.
"We've asked our licensee to immediately conduct an independent test in the U.S. for asbestos. If the toy is determined to be unsafe, then we will insist that the licensee remove it from the market," a statement from a CBS spokesman said. The manufacturer and distributor -- Planet Toys in New York City -- said in an e-mail that it frequently inspects the plants in China that make the CSI toys. "The kit has been tested and has met all safety standards requirements as set by toy safety agencies and legislation, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission," a spokeswoman said, but added, "The agencies don't require asbestos testing and therefore we have never been apprised of any unacceptable levels of asbestos. "We respect anyone's right to test our products and should their or our future tests reveal anything unacceptable, we'll of course take swift action to remove contaminated products from the market." Some of the products tested for the organization contained less than 1 percent asbestos, which would not be prohibited under the partial asbestos ban just passed by the Senate. Industry lobbyists succeeded in watering down the complete ban that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., tried to pass. The House soon will hold hearings on the legislation and is expected to attempt a complete prohibition of all asbestos-containing products.
But other products, including the CSI fingerprint kit, exceeded that level, at about 5 percent asbestos. One of the highest levels of asbestos -- 30 percent -- was found in a roof sealer. Health experts insist that asbestos at any level must be considered potentially hazardous. "Any amount is harmful. Even 1 percent can represent millions of fibers, so we need a complete ban of all asbestos, at any level," said Dr. Arthur Frank, co-chairman of the organization's science advisory board and chairman of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia. Dr. Michael Harbut, an international authority in the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases, calls the 1 percent exemption a "get out of jail free" card provided by the government to those who "profiteer off the asbestos-related deaths of Americans who wrongly believed these types of products are safe." The products tested for the organization were bought from several national retail chains, including Wal-Mart, Costco, Toys "R" Us, Home Depot, Lowe's, Macy's, CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond and others. Another product the labs said contained asbestos was Art Skills' Clay Bucket, where asbestos was found in six colors of clay. The Pennsylvania-based family business uses clay from Thailand and, Jennifer Hogan said, produces "a safe and hazard-free product" which has "passed all toxicology tests required to conform to applicable United States safety standards." Hogan says her firm appreciates the seriousness of the organization's concerns "and will pursue vigorously any evidence of hazardous substances in our products."
Three varieties of Ja-Ru Toy Clay contained asbestos, according to the laboratory reports. Omnimodels in Jacksonville, Fla., which distributes the clay from China to major toy chains, did not respond to a request for comment. "There is no excuse for this. The fact that asbestos is still being found in consumer products is appalling," said Dr. Aubrey Miller of the U.S. Public Health Service, who has been researching asbestos health issues with the Environmental Protection Agency for almost a decade. "Even more concerning are products sold to be used by children. They have more time to exhibit the health effects from exposure to these disease-causing fibers." The laboratories reported asbestos in Scotch High Performance Duct Tape and its All Weather Duct Tape, both of which are manufactured in Canada, according to 3M. "3M has a policy against using asbestos in our products," said Jackie Berry, a corporate spokeswoman, "and we don't use asbestos in our duct tape." The labs also said asbestos was found in numerous tests of DAP Crack Shot Spackling Paste and DAP's 33 Window Glazing. David Fuller, vice president of marketing for DAP, said "neither product contains asbestos. As a responsible company, DAP has been, and will continue to be, in regular contact with our suppliers and will routinely review information and regulations relevant to ensuring the safety and efficacy of our products." The test results reported high levels of asbestos in Gardner Leak Stopper.
A request for comment from Gardner-Gibson's Headquarters in Tampa went unanswered. Asbestos also was also found in hair rollers, hot plates and small appliances imported from China and sold in major drug store chains. The organization may do additional testing on those products and others. Paul Zygielbaum, a survivor of mesothelioma, and his wife, Michelle, proposed tests of products readily available on U.S. store shelves. "Our reasoning was that, while the continuing legality of asbestos doesn't seem to cause public outrage, the actual, unsuspected presence of asbestos in everyday products might do so," said Zygielbaum, who managed the testing. Everyone involved with the organization's testing is convinced that numerous other products being sold contain asbestos. "Every exposure to asbestos fibers is associated with an increased risk of cancer and asbestosis," said Harbut, who is co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos Related Cancers. "The use of these sorts of products may explain at least in part why some non-smokers get lung cancer and persons with no occupational exposures develop mesothelioma."
"In a perfect world, the manufacturers of these products would ensure that they are toxin-, carcinogen- and asbestos-free. In the real world, one of the cardinal responsibilities of government is to protect the people. It's just not happening," 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.