As a result, the ACCC has triggered the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) Imported Materials with Asbestos Working Group Rapid Response Protocol.
The ACCC does not believe that traces of asbestos in crayons presents a safety risk to consumers because the asbestos is fixed within the crayon wax, which removes the risk of inhalation or ingestion. There is no need to panic.
Nevertheless presence of asbestos in crayons at any level is unacceptable because asbestos is a prohibited import and its presence means the product is not of acceptable quality. Also, the presence of asbestos triggers certain workplace safety obligations.
Where we have identified asbestos we have requested that suppliers of those goods to stop supplying them and offer consumers a refund or exchange for a product without asbestos.
State and Territory workplace safety authorities are administering controls in relation to the presence of asbestos in any workplace (including retail supply, schools and return of goods). Because of triggering the protocol, they are contacting suppliers about their obligation to remove existing stock from workplaces and establish collection points for consumer returns.
The ACCC is continuing to test products that could contain asbestos and will share any further information with suppliers and the community as it comes to light.
What should I do?
Consumers with any concerns should return or dispose of the crayons. You can:
place the crayons in a plastic bag (ziplock or sealed with a knot) or in their original packaging and return to the supplier. Ask the supplier for a refund or replacement
take the crayons (in a bag or their original packaging) to an authorised asbestos disposal facility. Find your nearest licensed asbestos disposal facility by searching on the ASEA website.
It is the law that any materials containing asbestos must be disposed of at licensed facilities.
The ACCC became aware of concerns about the presence of asbestos in crayons in July 2015 and has been testing products and talking to suppliers since that time.
The HWSA working group of agencies includes representatives from the Asbestos Safety & Eradication Agency (ASEA), the ACCC, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Safe Work Australia (SWA) and the state and territory workplace safety agencies. The working group’s secretariat is within ASEA.
DIBP is managing the importation of crayons at the border and many suppliers are testing their crayons after being contacted by DIBP.
The ACCC is not the lead agency, but continues to play a role at the Commonwealth level.
Crayons containing asbestos are considered to be of unacceptable quality, consumers may exercise their consumer rights under the Australian Consumer Law and return crayons identified as containing asbestos to their supplier and obtain a refund or exchange for product without asbestos.
Figure 1. Dora the Explorer Personalized 32 pack crayons