CBS finally recalls CSI crime-lab toy that contains asbestos

Just before Christmas 2007, an asbestos victims’ organization announced that testing it had commissioned had found potentially lethal asbestos fibers in the fingerprint powder of CBS broadcasting’s best-selling “CSI Crime Lab” toys.

Only now, 20 months later, after prodding from a judge presiding over a nationwide class action suit on the contaminated products, has CBS agreed to a settlement.

csifingerprint-kitThe agreement, which must be approved by the court, not only offers a refund but, more importantly, will effectively implement a nationwide recall of the toy science kits, based on the popular television drama series CSI, Arthur Bryant, executive director of Public Justice, told me today.

The suit was brought by Public Justice, a national public-interest law firm, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, the independent volunteer organization, dedicated to raising public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure. It has spent nearly $250,000 in testing the toys and other popular consumer products for asbestos.

The amount of asbestos that the lab tests uncovered stunned not only the analysts but also the public health advisors of the asbestos group that ordered repeated tests just to be sure.

“This was far too serious to not be absolutely sure of the accuracy of what we discovered,” said Linda Reinstein, co-founder and executive director of the organization. “We kept testing and still got the alarming results. We were aghast to find asbestos in a children’s toy.”

Her outrage was understandable. For asbestos fibers to sicken or kill, they must first be inhaled. The highly publicized, made-in-China toy containing white fingerprint powder loaded with asbestos included instructions that told children to get close and dust or blow the extremely fine powder away.

“The asbestos is almost certain to be inhaled and widely disseminated,” Public Justice said in the suit.

Reinstein, the chief analyst, and several leading national asbestos authorities announced their finding in a Washington news conference in December 2007. Immediately, copies of the lab results were delivered by courier to the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.

(Here’s a link to the Seattle PI’s story on that announcement which talks about other popular consumer products with asbestos.)

The silence from the government watchdogs was deafening.

It was only after Public Justice joined with Reinstein’s group that CBS and Planet Toys, it’s licensee who made the lab kits, agreed to pull them off the market.

But CBS said it didn’t have the authority to order the recall of the estimated two million toys that had already been sold. Planet Toys refused, Bryant explained.

What was potentially more serious was that neither company would do a nationwide notification plan to warn consumers of the hazard contained in the holiday toys.

You’ve got to wonder how many children have sucked asbestos fibers into their lungs during the 20 months while CBS did nothing and CPSC ignored the issue.

“We urge everyone to get these products out of your homes and away from children, and to send in your claim form to get a refund,” said Public Justice’s Victoria Ni, co-counsel in the case.

Its testing was a gutsy and costly thing for the volunteer asbestos organization to undertake.

“We had no choice,” Reinstein said. “We heard rumors that many products contained asbestos and we tried to find out if it was true.”

The asbestos group is one of the most active players in getting the beleaguered, politically mired asbestos ban out of Congress.

“Even though the dangers of asbestos have been well-documented for more than 100 years, we’re still finding it in common household products. That’s simply unacceptable,” Reinstein said.

The settlement provides cash refunds to consumers throughout the U.S. who bought, or received as a gift, one or more CSI Exam Kits or Lab Kits sold by CBS, Toys “R” Us, Hammacher Schlemmer, Walgreens,,, Sears, Kmart, and QVC.

Here is a link to more information on the recalls and for claim forms:


CBS finally recalls CSI crime-lab toy that contains asbestos — 4 Comments

  1. A TOTAL BAN OF ASBESTOS HAS NEVER BEEN MORE URGENT!! For decades, Libby Montana was ignored by government agencies about the poisoning of it’s citizens from the WR Grace company operating a vermiculite mine contaminated with tremolite, the worst of the worst type of fibers. Years of debate in Congress still falls on deaf ears. It is outrageous that children are now targets of items that should have been pulled off the shelves almost 2 years ago when scientific evidence proved it to be harmful. Refunds and recalls don’t prevent disease. I have lost so many friends and my own father to mesothelioma that I simply weep at the injustice that is being perpetrated upon innocent people. Our governmental agencies are failing to serve the best interest of American citizens. Why don’t they hear the cry for action to BAN ASBESTOS. Please write your congressional leaders:

    Thank you again Mr. Schneider for being a voice to bring awareness.

  2. It amazes me any company would still be using asbestos in their products with the knowledge of its exposure that is available today. It saddens me deeply they would go even further to use it in our children’s products It is well known it takes just one inhaled fiber of asbestos to cause illness or even death. Special thanks to Andrew Schneider and ADAO for their ongoing dedication to fight to ban asbestos, help its victims, and keep us informed on the harmful products we are still unaware that are still on the market today. Please visit, and help support this ban.

  3. Thank you for this insightful article; it is refreshing to see a news piece that actually covers news that matters! As someone who has lost a family member to asbestos disease, I am hopeful that your investigative coverage will help to fuel increased efforts to ban asbestos at all levels. It is particularly troublesome and frightening to know that asbestos is still being included in products for children. If ADAO had not conducted these tests, we may have never known. I am glad something is finally being done.

  4. Hi,
    My son was just given a Crime Lab set (EduScience). It’s a fingerprint analysis Kit with two dusting powders included. Is this still a problem today in sets?

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