RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—When parents and grandparents hit the arts and crafts aisles this summer in search of a non-TV-related ways to entertain children, they probably aren’t thinking about the chemicals in crayons. But Monona Rossol, MS, MFA, industrial hygienist with the group Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, takes serious issue with the secrecy about ingredients behind which art supply manufacturers hide. “Every pigment in crayons is considered a trade secret,” she says. Art supplies aren’t required to bear ingredient labels, she notes, and manufacturers don’t make it easy to find out what’s inside them. Parents can look for products that say “Conform to ASTM D-4236,” a set of international safety regulations, or the Arts & Creative Materials Institute’s “AP” (approved product) seal. However, the institute requires that manufacturers test their own products, which has made some advocacy groups question how rigorous the standards really are.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Product Safety and Improvement Act does require that art supplies marketed to children be tested for lead, but, says Rossol, parents should be able to find out what’s in a product, particularly art supplies that kids are so tempted to put in their mouths. “If it weren’t for crayons, I would have gone hungry as a child,” she says. “A parent should be able to find out what’s inside if a child eats it.”
Until the crayon barons give it up, keep an eye out for the ASTM label on products, and avoid these six other bad actors in kids’ craft boxes:
1. Adult art materials.
Problem: Many adult art supplies and paints are tinted with heavy metals like cadmium, which can upset stomachs and, with repeated exposure, cause long-term kidney damage. “Presumably, they don’t use toxic metals in children’s products,” Rossol adds.
|Solution: Stick to products marketed to children (which the government defines as under age 12), she says, and with teenagers, buy high-quality art materials, which Rossol says will disclose what heavy metals (if any) are used as pigments, making it easy to take the proper precautions.|