Summer News (Dumbledore, asbestos in crayons, and Menards)

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Summer in Vermont is a beautiful thing. Like many of you, I have been spending plenty of time in the real world, away from computers and the interwebs. I have checked during the evenings and bring you tonight a roundup of recent environmental and parenting news.

First, I wanted to point out a guest post I did over at Edutopia (a fabulous education and parenting website and organization). It is called 7 Lessons for Teachers (and Parents) from Dumbledore. I’m reading Harry Potter aloud to my daughters and find that many of  Dumbledore’s quotes, messages and ways of being share important lessons for how to teach and reach kids. Or anyone, really!

Next up is some good news. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have been leading the charge to pressure major retailers to remove toxic products from their store shelves. With activism from parents– great things are happening. First, Ashley Furniture committed to phasing out toxic flame retardants from their furniture. Home-Depot and Lowe’s pledged to eliminate phthalates from flooring, and now Menards joins them. This is great progress and only comes from an organized effort from parents and consumers demanding safer products.

On a much less bright note, this new report came in from the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, finding that several brands of imported crayons contained asbestos. According to Sonya Lunder, report co-author and senior analyst at Environmental Working Group Action Fund, “There are no rules banning asbestos contamination in many consumer products and, to us, toys really stood out.” I’ll let that sink in for a moment. No rules banning asbestos? A material known to cause fatal lung cancer? That is the state of affairs in our country– unlike many others who better protect public health (especially children’s). Asbestos is still legal and still being used.

These are the brands they tested that contained asbestos, according of Environmental Health News and The Environmental Working Group Action Fund:

  • Amscan Crayons,
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse crayons,
  • Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons,
  • Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce crayons,
  • EduScience Deluve Forensics Lab Kit (black fingerprint powder), and Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit (white fingerprint powder).

The science is not clear how harmful the exposure is, but according to Dr. Philip Landrigan of  Mount Sinai Hospital “Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children.” The CPSC did note that asbestos in crayons are not likely to yield a significant exposure because the asbestos is likely bound in the crayon– but Richard Lemen, retired U.S. assistant surgeon general who specialized in occupational health said: “Some may say they’re [children] not at risk of a very high of exposure, but children are much more reactive to toxic materials and we’re dealing with a carcinogen.  We haven’t identified a concentration or exposure below which we are at not risk.”

Basically, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.  Just like lead. Clearly, asbestos needs to be banned from all products and regulated by the CPSC. You can read the full report here and sign a petition. Recommended steps also include asking what brand of crayon your child’s school uses and checking what brand is used before accepting restaurant crayons. I would add checking out goody bags crayons from birthday parties, too.

Come across any parenting, environmental, or education news to share? Please let me know in the comments!

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