Two of New Zealand’s biggest arts and craft retailers have pulled crayons containing asbestos from shelves.

The decision comes after Government testing identified asbestos in three of 21 randomly selected crayon products.

However, authorities stress the risk to consumers is expected to be low.

The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery, owned by The Warehouse Group, have removed the contaminated stock from all their stores.

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Environmental Protection Authority and the Ministry for the Environment have been undertaking tests to determine the risks involved with asbestos in crayons, and if the issue was present in New Zealand.

The products confirmed to have asbestos are:

·        Disney – Planes, Fire & Rescue – Double ended crayons

·        Avengers Age of Ultron – 8 Chunky Crayons

·        Art Series – Jumbo Colours 12 Non-Toxic Bright Colours

“The risk assessment of asbestos in crayons as low is based on research undertaken by the United States Consumer Product Safety (CPSC) Commission, which included using simulation testing” a statement from the Ministry of Health said.

The research suggests the asbestos may be used as a binding agent in the crayons, like talc. Talc and asbestos are similar in composition and form in the same locations.

“This can lead to natural cross-contamination and this is believed to be the reason asbestos is being detected in some crayons,” the statement said.

Parents or caregivers with concerns about their crayons were recommended to check with the supplier.

“If you are still concerned we recommend that you stop using the crayons and dispose of them in your rubbish.

“Agencies are in agreement that, while it is currently legal for products to contain asbestos, it is not appropriate for children’s products, such as crayons, to contain asbestos.

“Suppliers of these products have been made aware of the issue and may elect to withdraw the products. Crayon suppliers may also have their products tested for asbestos so they can provide assurances to consumers.”

The Ministry for the Environment is currently consulting on a proposal to ban the import of asbestos-containing products to New Zealand.

Crayons are regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority, but asbestos is not specifically prohibited from being used in them.

However, if the ban is introduced, it will apply to all products, including crayons.

The Ministry of Education would be “alerting schools and early childhood education centres to the advisory from the Ministry of Health”, and “recommending they follow Ministry of Health advice”.

Tara McGibbon’s 3-year-old son Billy has been known to put crayons in his mouth on the odd occasion.

So the Wellington mother-of-three was less than impressed to hear the latest news that some brands may contain asbestos.

She was particularly concerned that one of the brands in question carried the Disney name.

“Personally, I think it’s really bad that a company like Disney would allow asbestos into a product that’s carrying it brand so it can be marketed to children,” she said. “It’s bad brand association for a large corporate company like them.”

McGibbon, of Berhampore, said she was all too aware of how her children’s playthings could affect their health, which is why she went out of her way to find non-toxic or beeswax crayons, as well as eco-friendly cleaning products.

The suggestion that asbestos was being used as a binding agent in the crayons – especially one that carried the words “non-toxic” in the title – was not good enough, she said.

If you or a family member have been affected by asbestos, please contact us on 0800 294 3065 where we will be able to help and advise you in the best way possible.