It’s Official–Asbestos Toys From China Are on U.S. Shelves

Remember that you read it here, first. Back in July, we brought you an article about the bitter fruits of “Free Trade” deals (see “The High Cost of Low Prices” posted on 12 July). In addition to the devastating economic consequences, “cheap” consumer goods from these foreign factories not only contain asbestos, but are often shoddy, of low quality, and break down after a year or two before winding up in U.S. landfills.

Over the past year, many products from China have proven deadly–pet food containing plastic, wood building materials containing formaldehyde, packaged seafood raised in human sewage, and children’s toys containing lead-based paint–in addition numerous products such as gaskets, brake linings, machine belts and rope containing asbestos. Now you can add children’s toys to the list of asbestos products brought to American consumers courtesy of “Free Trade.” Andrew Schneider, who first broke the story about Libby, Montana, reported in the Seattle Post Intelligencer recently that asbestos has been found in one of this year’s biggest sellers, the “CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit.” Aimed at older children (age 8 and above), this item is brought to you courtesy of the CBS television network as a tie-in to its popular CSI crime show.

Currently, it is being sold for around $25 in the U.S. and U.K., and is available on several websites, including, Ebay, Tesco and JellyDeal. Three lab analyses in the U.S. paid for by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Group showed not one, but two different types of asbestos in finely grained powders (meaning the asbestos is friable) included in the kits. According to a Canadian report, one of these is tremolite–the deadly amphibole varieties responsible for elevated rates of mesothelioma among talc miners in New York (see “What’s in a Name?” posted on 19 July). At least one website acknowledges that “this crime scene toy contains chemicals and requires adult supervision.” A representative of Planet Toys Worldwide, Inc., which markets the CSI Kit, said that the plants in China were “frequently inspected,” adding that “any toys shown to contain ‘unacceptable’ products will be withdrawn from the market.” As of this writing however, the product remained on the shelves of both online and brick-and-mortar stores, and no plan for a recall been announced. Asbestos has also been found in children’s clay as well as duct tape and miscellaneous building products from China.