A public interest group said this week that it had found toxic substances in a number of school supplies, including asbestos in a Playskool crayon and another carcinogen, benzene, in a dry-erase marker.
The findings were detailed in a report published Tuesday by the group, the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, which had an independent laboratory test 27 back-to-school products. Four tested positive for dangerous chemicals.
“It’s insane for us to be finding asbestos in kids’ products, whether it’s technically legal or not, and parents shouldn’t have to worry about this in 2018,” said Dev Gowda, an author of the report who also directs the group’s campaign to persuade manufacturers to drop toxic substances from personal care products.
“We wish that we didn’t have to do a study like this, but the reality is that corporations — from manufacturers, distributors and retailers — aren’t doing this for us,” he said.
The group tested crayons, markers, binders, water bottles, lunchboxes, notebooks, rulers and glue. The products were purchased nationwide at a variety of businesses, including box stores, dollar stores, pharmacies, arts and crafts stores, and online.
The group, which has been surveying toys for more than three decades, recommended that the companies that make or offer the products stop selling them and start notifying consumers about the chemicals they appear to contain.
It also called on policymakers to continue to support the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency, and urged the commission itself to test more school supplies for dangerous chemicals.
Here’s a look at what the public interest group found:
Of the crayons tested, one, a green Playskool crayon, tested positive for trace amounts of tremolite, a form of asbestos. The crayon was part of a set of 36 manufactured by Leap Year Publishing and purchased at a Dollar Tree store.
Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro, which owns the Playskool brand, said that “product and children’s safety are top priorities” for the company.
“We are conducting a thorough investigation into these claims, including working with Leap Year, the licensee of the product,” she said in a statement.
In an email, John Sorenson, a spokesman for Leap Year Publishing, said that all of its products, including the green crayon mentioned in the report, “are thoroughly tested by independent labs” to meet or exceed federal standards.
“We are currently re-verifying that they are safe and free of any asbestos, as well as requesting a review of P.I.R.G.’s testing methods,” he said.
Tremolite is responsible for many cases of asbestos-related cancer and asbestos diseases, according to the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
In a statement, Dollar Tree said it was aware of the report and had “since reverified that each of the listed products successfully passed inspection and testing.”
Crayons sold under five other brands — Crayola, Up & Up, Cra-Z-Art, Disney Junior Mickey and the Roadster Racers, and RoseArt — tested negative for asbestos.