These ordinary materials used by children or professionals sometimes contain hazardous asbestos.

Asbestos is often mixed with other materials to strengthen and fireproof them.

Because of its flame resistant qualities, asbestos has a long history of production during the 20th century in a range of building materials as a fire retardant. The fiber dates back to prehistoric times, but consumption was at an all-time high in the year 1973 in the United States, at 804,000 tons. 

Unfortunately, asbestos today can still be found in schools, public buildings, homes, and in some cases, even in everyday art supplies.

Asbestos can cause major health problems, including cancers like mesothelioma.

Exposure to the dangerous fiber is associated with major threats to lung health. Asbestosis, which is a long-term and severe lung disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma can all stem from long-term exposure to asbestos. 

Today the United States prohibits the manufacturing of most art supplies containing asbestos, but there have been instances where products made abroad have been mislabeled or materials have become unintentionally exposed to asbestos. These seemingly safe art supplies may not be all that safe after all.

Five Art Supplies That Have Been Known to Contain Asbestos

1. Crayons

In 2000, an independent lab analysis showed a trace amount of asbestos in several brands of crayons, including Crayola. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) promptly directed their own analysis, which showed the small amount of asbestos was medically insignificant, and claimed the crayons were of no threat to children. 

This controversy sparked a conversation about just how much asbestos is allowed in art supplies, particularly for children. During quality testing of a batch of back-to-school supplies in 2015, an Environmental Working Group analysis detected a dangerous level of asbestos in Playskool crayons. The four types of crayons were subsequently pulled from the shelves of Amazon, Dollar Tree, and other retailers. Playskool crayons, again, tested positive for asbestos in 2018.

2. Clay

Asbestos was utilized as an added ingredient for strengthening Das air-drying modeling clay sold in the UK between 1963 and 1975. With almost 55 million units sold, the company exposed thousands of children to hazardous amounts of asbestos. Unfortunately, children exposed to asbestos may not display the symptoms of mesothelioma until 30-50 years later, and the recall came far too late. 

In 1983, Milton Bradley Co. had to pull their fibro-clay from store shelves, also due to using asbestos as an added ingredient. An accidental exposure in 2007 left two clay brands, Ja-Ru Toy Clay and Art Skill Clay Bucket, recalled for the detection of asbestos. Local health departments advised teachers to have chest x-rays in 2009 after learning their classroom Nytal 100 clay was contaminated with asbestos. 

Regardless of the health concerns, experts say there still may be schools using the Nytal 100 clay. Many schools now opt to use talc free clay to avoid the risk of contamination.

3. Paint

From 1945 until at least the 1980s, popcorn textured ceilings were a huge trend. Nicknamed “the miracle mineral” for its insulation ability, asbestos was added to spray paint to give these ceilings their unique texture. But ceiling paints weren’t the only source of asbestos in paints. The mineral was also detected in paint patches, joint compounds, and silver paints. 

Many painters today directly expose themselves to asbestos during remodeling jobs and should take extra precautions when working in buildings created in 1990 or earlier. 

Asbestos is nearly impossible to detect with the naked eye in paint, but if it is visible, it will resemble white, fuzzy fabric fibers. When asbestos is present in an intact wall of paint, it poses a lesser threat than when the paint becomes damaged. Once damaged, the particles are sent airborne, and a painter is at the greatest risk of breathing in the hazardous substance.

4. Welding Materials

Welding is the art of using high heat to melt two metals together. So, tools used for welding have a critical need for adequate protection against soaring heat. Historically, asbestos was used as a safeguard against the high temperatures in welding equipment, such as welding rods. Although it began as a means to protect welding workers, it ended up risking workers’ health by subjecting asbestos to up to 5,850° flames, sending asbestos particles airborne. Lincoln Electric had a wide recall in 2004 due to the contamination of asbestos in their welding rods. But the risk isn’t limited to welding rods – there have been detections of asbestos in welding gloves as well.

5. Tape

Due to its strength and resilience, asbestos has been known to be used in adhesives dating back to the year 1887. These adhesives ranged from tape to building materials, such as cement, but have been banned from entering the marketplace since 1989. 

However, Scotch Performance Duct Tape and Scotch All Weather Duct Tape were pulled from major retailers, such as Walmart, in 2007 for asbestos detection.

What To Do if You Find a Product That Contains Asbestos in Your Home

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has simple instructions to follow if there is a risk of asbestos-ladened products being in a home. Don’t touch it. If the art products appear unopened or sealed, it is safe to throw them away, as asbestos is not a threat unless it is released into the air. If a product is open or is engrained in paint, the EPA suggests contacting state and local health departments for professional removal. 

AsbestosClaims.Law

AsbestosClaims.law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information helps you.

If you believe that your home was contaminated with asbestos, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

In addition to legal claims, veterans disability, social security and employment protection like workers compensation, FELA and The Jones Act for maritime workers, there are asbestos trusts that have been set up to compensate those harmed by asbestos without having to file a lawsuit.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, including testing for exposure or how to file a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (206) 455-9190.

Additional Sources:

“Asbestos in the Home.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-guides/home/asbestos-home.
King, Daniel. “The History of Asbestos – Importing, Exporting & Worldwide Use.” Mesothelioma Center – Vital Services for Cancer Patients & Families, 24 May 2022, https://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/history.
Reid, A. & de Kierk, N. Hazards of residential exposure to household asbestos. The Lancet Public Health. 2017 Nov; 11: E490-E491. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30200-1.