We all know how much children love crayons. Often, it’s not only the first art tool they experience but also their most-used and longest-lasting toy. Their interaction with crayons can range from direct contact with their skin for long periods of time, putting their nose right next to them as they color, drawing on themselves, and even chewing or eating them. That’s why crayons and all toys need to meet the highest safety standards.
“The threshold for exposing a kid to a carcinogenic chemical when they’re playing with toys should be zero.” Sonya Lunder, EWG senior researcher.
What products did EWG find that contained asbestos fibers?
This month, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Action Fund found asbestos fibers in four brands of children’s crayons and two kids’ crime lab kits:
- Amscan Crayons – purchased at Party City. (Party City is owned by Amscan).
- Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons
- Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons
- Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons
(The three brands above were purchased at Dollar Tree).
Crime Lab Kits:
- EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit – back fingerprint powder
- Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit- white fingerprint powder
All the crayons were made in China and imported to the U.S. The full EWG report can be found here.
What are the main safety concerns with crayons?
Asbestos – There is no safe amount of asbestos. It is a known carcinogen. The asbestos was found in the talc that is used to strengthen the crayons.
It was also found in 2000 when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer broke the story that asbestos, a cancer-causing toxin, had been found in the top three brands of crayons in the U.S.: Crayola, Prang and Rose Art crayons. When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff researched the issue, CPSC staff wrote in the report that they “believe that as a precaution, crayons should not contain these fibers.” All 3 crayon companies agreed to reformulate.
According to the U.K. Committee on Carcinogenicity, a child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 more likely than a 25-year-old to develop mesothelioma, a lung disease, that is only caused by asbestos, because of the long lag time between exposure and diagnosis.
Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told EWG Action Fund.“Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children, today as it did in 2000 and 2007, the last time tests found the deadly substance in these children’s products.”
Only one state in the U.S., Connecticut, bans asbestos in children’s products including toys and other articles marketed for children under the age 16.
Lead – There is no safe amount of lead. Anything that children chew on or swallow that contains lead may cause high lead levels in their blood. The reason lead is of great concern is that even in small amounts, it can permanently damage the child’s nervous system causing lower IQ, learning issues, hyperactivity, irritability and slowed growth.
In a 2015 test of crayons, Öko–Test found lead in both Princess Lillifee (8 Crayon pack) and Herlitz Pretty Pets (8 crayon pack).
In April, 1994, 11 brands of crayons were recalled by CPSC (The Consumer Product Safety Commission). Some brands on the list contained enough lead to poison a child just from chewing them without being exposed to any other lead source.
Paraffins – Paraffin is a solid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. If a child accidentally eats a large amount of crayon, the paraffin can lead to intestinal obstruction. Paraffin can also accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes.
Aromatic amines: These can be released when the wax comes into contact with the skin or from being ingested. They are an endocrine disruptor and listed by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) as a probable carcinogen.
PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are a group of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline and can develop during the production of waxes. Many PAHs are carcinogenic.
Results from a January, 2015 Öko-Test resulted in two crayon brands being listed as “Very Good”.
Bic – This is a coloring crayon made from plastic, not wax. It can be unwrapped, sharpened and erases like a pencil. Recommended for children age 2+. Note: Since the testing was performed, the packaging has changed.
Nawaro – 12 crayons made from renewable natural raw materials with 24% bee product. Made in Germany.
Brands that tested “Good”:
Staedtler Noris Club 12 Super Jumbo Crayons. Products made in Germany and Japan. More than 10% Paraffin.
Giotto Be-Be 10 Super Unbreakable Crayons and Sharpener. More than 10% Paraffin.
Stockmar – This is a brand used by Waldorf schools and made in Germany. Some websites indicate that Stockmar crayons are made from 100% beeswax possibly because Stockmar originally made beeswax candles. Yet, testing reveals only 9 to 10% beeswax. Stockmar’s ingredient list also confirms this and shows 52% paraffin being used. You can find out more about why they have chosen to use paraffin here.
In response to many parents’ requests to have a non-paraffin alternative, the Filana Crayons were recently developed by a Waldorf teacher.
Filana: 25% organic beeswax, soy wax base (non-GMO soy). Made in the USA. Tested by an independent laboratory and compliant with CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). Note: Soy is an allergen, so if you or your child have a soy allergy, you’ll need to make a different choice.
Sarah Baldwin, a Waldorf teacher, made this video as an interesting comparison between Stockmar and Filana Crayons:
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