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Asbestos Found in Toys, Other Products, Consumer Group Says

Dec 4, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

Asbestos is present in many toys and consumer products, according to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.  The group, the nation's largest asbestos victim's organization, was created in 2004 by asbestos victims and their families, and has spent over $165,000 for government-certified laboratories to examine hundreds of consumer products and to determine asbestos contamination. 

Studies confirm that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers is linked to increased risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma-a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity-and asbestosis-in which lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.  The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have banned several asbestos products and manufacturers have voluntarily limited asbestos use.  Many feel every exposure to asbestos fibers is associated with an increased risk of disease, thus, using asbestos-containing products may explain-in part-why some non-smokers get lung cancer and persons with no occupational exposures develop mesothelioma.

The discovery of asbestos laced toys is one of the most disturbing discoveries made by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organizations. Among the asbestos contaminated toys found by the group:  the CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit; three varieties of Ja-Ru Toy Clay, distributed by Omnimodels; and Art Skills' Clay Bucket, where asbestos was found in six colors of clay.  Other consumer products testing positive for asbestos included Scotch High Performance and All Weather Duct tapes; DAP Crack Shot Spackling Paste and 33 Window Glazing; Gardner Leak Stopper, where one of the highest asbestos levels-at 30 percent-was reported; powdered cleansers; hair rollers; hot plates; and small appliances.  Products tested were purchased from several national retail chains, including Wal-Mart, Costco, Toys "R" Us, Home Depot, Lowe's, Macy's, CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond, and others.  The product of greatest concern to some public health experts is the fingerprint kit which includes fine powders; high levels of two types of asbestos-five percent-were found in the powders.

Some products contained less than one percent asbestos, which would not be prohibited under the Partial Asbestos Ban just passed by the Senate.  Industry lobbyists succeeded in diluting the complete ban and the House will hold hearings on the legislation and is expected to attempt a complete prohibition of asbestos-containing products.

Health experts feel any asbestos is potentially hazardous and even one-percent can represent millions of fibers, so all asbestos, at any level, should be banned.  A spokesperson for the U.S. Public Health Service, who has been researching asbestos health issues with the EPA for nearly a decade found the test results inexcusable, especially since children-to whom some of the products are marketed-have more time to exhibit the health effects from exposure to the disease-causing fibers.

The organization began testing, in part, because while continuing legality of asbestos doesn't cause public outrage, actual asbestos in everyday products might.  Everyone involved with the organization's testing is convinced other products being sold contain asbestos.  The organization reported its findings at a news conference in Washington Wednesday and will submit its information to the CPSC and EPA in the hopes the government will act responsibly and honestly and understand that political compromises have no meaning to a family devastated by an asbestos cancer.

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