Italian Study Says Doll Factories Led to Asbestos Exposure

Illustration of mesothelioma research

According to a recent study by Italian scientists, workers in cloth doll factories have a higher chance of developing mesothelioma cancer due to asbestos exposure. Many of these factories have employed women, who are not traditionally seen as having been exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

In the study, two women’s mesothelioma cases were re-examined. Their diagnoses were linked to working in cloth doll factories. Plus, in 1993, a Brescia registry found that of 757 mesothelioma cases, three were women working in the same cloth doll factory whose asbestos exposure was classified as “unknown” because an environmental, family, or extra-professional asbestos exposure was considered unlikely.

According to the study’s author, Pietrogino Barbieri, “The occurrence of two mesothelioma cases in the same company out of the three here presented was suggesting an occupational exposure.”

Sophisticated scanning electron microscopy was used for an autopsy on asbestos concentration in one of the women’s lungs. She had 12 million amphibole fibers per gram of dry lung tissue, which is considered industrial-level exposure.

This isn’t the first time toys have resulted in asbestos exposure. According to an investigation commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action fund of Washington, D.C., asbestos was found in children’s crayons and toys. In toy crime kits specifically, the concentration level was as high as one percent.

The investigation was conducted by the Scientific Analytical Institute of Greensboro, NC, which is an independent laboratory. A total of 28 boxes of crayons were tested, and four were found to contain the known carcinogen. Out of the 21 toy crime scene fingerprint kits tested, two came back positive for asbestos.

However, there’s actually no ban on asbestos being in crayons by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). All of the tested products with the material were manufactured in China, proving it’s incredibly tough to monitor each component of the supply chain for a product.

“Children’s playtime should be filled with fun, not asbestos,” said U.S. Senator Markey Durbin, who asked retailers to voluntarily recall “toxic products.” “We need greater access to information about where asbestos is present in products children and families use every day.”

The Italian study resulted in the women’s “unknown” exposure becoming “occupational certified.” Now garment factories and cotton plants are being researched as other possible workplaces with asbestos exposure.