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Tests reveal asbestos in New Zealand crayons

Two of New Zealand’s biggest arts and craft retailers have pulled crayons containing asbestos from shelves. The clearout 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, removed the contaminated stock from all their stores over the weekend.

“We had a bit of a heads up,” spokeswoman Julia Morton said.

“We pulled it before the testing had been completed.”

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.

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Health and safety legislation

The Health and Safety Reform Bill passed its third reading at parliament on 27 August 2015. The Bill creates a new Health and Safety at Work Act, which will come into force on 4 April 2016.

The new law will be supported by regulations that are being developed in time for April 2016.

The 1992 Health and Safety in Employment Act remains in force until the new law comes into effect.

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Government to halt asbestos and HCFC imports

The Government will soon move to stop remaining imports of products with asbestos content, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced today.

It also intended to ban the import of new bulk hydrochlorofluorocarbons, another substance with known risks to both the environment and human health, Smith said.

“Asbestos use is still killing 250 New Zealanders per year in terms of occupational deaths from historic misuse and mismanagement.”

Opening a gathering of 200 scientists attending the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s Australasia conference at Nelson’s Rutherford Hotel, he said “targeted consultation” was set begin on both.

“Already New Zealand has all but phased out these substances so the number of businesses expected to be affected is low. The Ministry for the Environment will be contacting these businesses directly about the proposed regulations and work with them on alternatives.”

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Pacific region awash with asbestos

For the first time, authorities in the Pacific now have an idea of just how much asbestos there is in the region, and are trying to work out how to get rid of it before it becomes a health risk.

survey has found that some South Pacific countries are awash with the hazardous building material which can lead to lung diseases or cancer.

The Pacific environment agency SPREP says that until now there’s only been anecdotal evidence about the quantity and condition of asbestos in the region.

SPREP’s Pacwaste project manager, Stewart Williams, says the survey, done with European Union assistance, found that the once-common building material is widespread, including in public buildings such as schools and hospitals.

“Primarily in buildings, in roofing material, in wall material, sometimes in flooring, and also in water pipes. The condition, compared to what it would be in Australia and New Zealand is that it’s typically not painted, and so it is quite weathered. So therefore what we’ve got is we’ve got asbestos that’s in poor condition which shows that there is risk.”

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