Beware of Asbestos and Other Toxins in Toys as Holiday Shopping Starts


Alert: Toys With Asbestos Sold on Amazon, eBay, and in Stores

It’s hard to believe that products designed and manufactured for children could pose serious, long-term health risks, yet hundreds of toys are recalled annually for that reason. Each year, the holiday shopping season exposes manufacturers selling products intended for children that contain cancer-causing toxins.

Over 40,000 chemicals are regularly used in consumer products, yet less than one percent of those chemicals have received widespread testing for human safety. Subsequently, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has marked millions of children’s toys, jewelry, makeup kits, costumes, and more unsafe due to potentially dangerous levels of carcinogens.

Incidences of child endangerment caused by contaminated toys tend to occur more often after the holiday shopping season as kids play with their new gifts. Earlier this year, the toy makeup kit “Princess Girl’s All-in-One Deluxe Makeup Palette” sold on Amazon and eBay tested for more than four million asbestos fiber structures per gram.

Other incidents of toxic toys include:

  • Playskool 36-pack crayons sold by Dollar Tree, Toys R Us, Party City, Amazon, and eBay contained dangerous levels of asbestos in 2018.
  • Johnson & Johnson discontinued its use of talc to make children’s toys, baby powder, and crayons due to the presence of asbestos in 2020.
  • A silver-colored, heart-shaped locket swallowed by a boy in Minnesota contained high levels of lead, resulting in the boy’s death.
  • Disney’s Hannah Montana two-heart necklace contained so much lead it was near the top of 2006’s “worst toys” list.

Health Effects of Contaminated Toys

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos for any age person. Because there’s no way to remove asbestos fibers from the body, inhaling or ingesting asbestos dust is extremely dangerous. Children exposed to the carcinogen early in life also have more time to develop fatal lung diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Over time, asbestos causes tissue inflammation and scarring. The first signs of asbestos can take up to 20 to 40 years to manifest, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Symptoms of long-term asbestos lung damage vary depending on where the fibers end up in the body but can include:

  • Chest or lower back pain
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Hoarse voice
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Persistent or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the face and/or arms
  • Swollen abdomen

5 Tips to Avoid Contaminated Toys

While parents try to buy quality, safe items for their kids, it can be difficult to spot a toxic toy just by looking at it.

“When you see these toys sitting on the shelf, there is no way to determine which products are made with toxic chemicals and which aren’t,” said Mike Shriberg, director of the consumer safety organization Ecology Center.

“They cost the same amount and look the same. It really shows that manufacturers have no excuse for making toys with dangerous chemicals.”

To avoid potentially contaminated toys, follow the five tips below:

  1. Remember that toy makeup kits are not required to undergo safety testing (children have thinner skin that is easier to irritate)
  2. Avoid products with “fragrance” in the ingredients (the term is frequently used to hide dangerous chemicals, such as common allergens and hormone disruptors)
  3. Avoid inexpensive children’s jewelry (may be manufactured with dangerous levels of lead)
  4. Avoid plastic and rubber-type toys likely made with vinyl (PVC), flame retardants, and phthalates not safe for children
  5. Choose toys made from “sustainable, non-toxic wood, organic cotton, or other natural or organic materials”

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