14 Jan Crayons | Fatal Conveniences™
Everyone has fond childhood memories revolving around crayons. These colorful waxy sticks represent hours of creative fun. I was an avid coloring book fan, and I can’t even tell you how many boxes of crayons I went through as a kid. No one wants to have these cherished memories tainted, but are crayons safe or toxic? And what are they doing to our planet?
Welcome to Fatal Conveniences™
This is a bite-sized segment that parallels The Darin Olien Show. In these segments, we get into society’s Fatal Conveniences™. I define these as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to. These things save us time and trick us into thinking they’re actually good for us. But it’s those same things that are breaking down our health, and the health of the environment around us.
I’ve spent most of my adult life obsessively researching these “conveniences.” On every show, I pick one topic, and we dive into it. My goal is to make you more aware of these traps so that you can push back on them. Remember, it starts with you and the choices you make.
So, if you’re willing to look at your world from a different perspective and make little tweaks that amount to big changes, then this segment is for you.
Between 45,000 and 75,000 lbs of broken crayons are discarded in US landfills every year.
This one is tough for me, because I really don’t want to bash crayons. I love crayons! We all did. And I’m sure if you have kids, you have multiple boxes of these colorful things all over the house. So I’ll just cut to the chase. Crayons consist of paraffin, which is a petroleum, crude oil by-product. And lab tests show some crayon brands are full of toxins like lead and even asbestos.
In this segment, I break down the uncomfortable truths about this kid-favorite drawing tool. It’s not just our kids we need to worry about. Unfortunately, these things are ending up in our landfills and waterways. But it’s not all bad news. Some brands are safer than others. Like most things, the cheaper it is, the more toxic it probably is. Thankfully, there are plenty of environmentally friendly, safe alternatives. And I’ll be sure to give you plenty of resources to find those as well. So don’t worry guys, you don’t have to hide those coloring books. Let’s just make a conscious effort to be aware of what’s in our kids’ favorite crafting supplies.
Other info in this segment:
- The history of Crayons
- The history of Crayola
- Why are these toxins allowed in kid products?
- Crayons and the planet
- Safe alternatives
Links & Resources:
Darin: It’s that time of the week for another fatal convenience. This is a bite-size segment that addresses some of society’s fatal conveniences and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of them. I define fatal conveniences as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to, tap water, shampoo, sunglasses, food. I dive into the hidden truths behind some of our everyday choices that could not only be harming us but even killing us, so let’s dive in.
Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. How’s it going? How are you navigating this world right now? It is a crazy, weird time. I’m just grateful at this point that I have a free place to speak and share with you, even though I’m not getting into the big topics because you have enough of that information hitting you. I’m getting into those things that continue to move you forward, to empower you, to enlighten you, to relieve you of stress and strain that may be invisible to you as you move through this world, and that’s something you can do on a day to day basis to empower you. That is my focus and my reason for Fatal Conveniences. Now, this one is centered around parents and children, and it is one of our most famous and well-used ways of expressing ourselves as children. Then this next fatal convenience is crayons. Yes, crayons. And you’re thinking to yourself, oh, shit, what is Darin going to say about crayons? Well, there’s some great history here with crayons, but I’m just going to cut right down to it. There are some toxins and the crayons primarily are made from paraffin, which is a byproduct of petroleum. So I cut right down to it. There you go. So paraffin wax is traditionally used and then obviously the colored pigments. And, you know, a little fun history just so I don’t just rip this to shreds right away. Crayons came from Europe and they largely originated from charcoal and oil. So that combination was a great way. The wax combination allowed for ways to use and write, and that was around 1876 from the Franklin Manufacturing Group. In the early 1800s, paraffin wax color crayons and the cylinder famous shape was designed for making leather and used on leather by Charles Bolie and it became popular. And then he partnered with the American Crayon Company, which produced chalk crayons, it was the original. And in the 1900s, crayons popularity continued to increase and then in 1903, Alice Benny came up with the name Crayola, which is a combination of the French word chalk craie. And the first part of this next word, ‘oleaginous’ and which is a word for wax paraffin. So there you go. The origin for Crayola, crayons, is the word chalk and paraffin. So there you go. I’m telling you right there that this was made from paraffin. So today, Crayola and its famous number eight gold metal yellow boxes that is the market leader in the US as well as 300 other manufacturers. So Crayola is the leading crayon brand producing nearly 3 billion crayons each year, an average of 12 million daily. By the age of 10, the average child has worn 723 crayons. That’s kind of weird. Every hundred new crayons equals about one pound. That’s a total of 120,000 pounds that are being manufactured and distributed daily. That’s still going on. That’s 60 tons of paraffin-based wax finding its way into the landfills. Now, there are two things of why I’m bringing this up. Number one, the toxic exposure for our kids. Number two, the environmental challenges and strain that it puts on the environment of this petroleum in the environment. So those are the two main reasons I’m bringing this up as a fatal convenience. In 2015, the Crayon Initiative Organization estimated that roughly between 45,000 and 75,000 pounds of broken crayona are discarded in landfills throughout the US annually. That’s crazy. A Yale University study documented that the aroma of crayona amongst the country’s 20 most recognizable smells. How crazy is that? That is the childhood smell. It’s paraffin and coloring. It’s crayons. So what makes it convenient? Well, obviously, this is a thing that kids use, I use. We all use the coloring books and writing numbers and letters and words, developing art. These are all great things. And listen, I’m not here to bash crayons. I’m here to give you alternatives to the paraffin and the destructive nature of some of the stuff. Obviously, this sparks creativity and colors. I love crayons to this day. It brings us back to that childhood thing and allows us to imagine and color and explore our own creativity. And this is extremely beneficial. So we just need to have alternatives to some of the stuff. So the chemicals that we should be aware of, in 1994, the Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered 11 brands of crayons produced overseas off of shelves because of the lead content that were in the pigments. And in 2000, the investigation conducted by Seattle Post Intelligencer found out that 80% of 40 crans made by three main US companies, Crayola, Prang and Rose Art plus four overseas manufacturers contained asbestos above the trace level. So are you as shocked as I am that asbestos is in the crayons and we already know that this is a carcinogenic compound and children are that much more susceptible to this? So that is a startling find by the industry. Even though there are some agencies out there trying to garner safety in some of this stuff the Art and Creative Material Institute, ACMI paid basically by the industry to certify the nontoxicity of such materials, said that the tests were wrong, but admitted that they didn’t analyze crayons for asbestos according to Debbie Fanning, the institute’s executive director at the time, and probably they will never do. So here’s the thing about testing. If you don’t test for it, put your hands over your eyes and your fingers and your ears. You don’t know what’s in there. So if you don’t test for it, it’s not there, right? Well, there you go. We found out that these things, lead, asbestos, and other things I’ll get into are in our crayons. And the way these people deal with it, who are supposed to have our back with toxicity and have our children’s interests in mind are basically saying, oh, sorry, we didn’t know. So that gives us a lot of great comfort, doesn’t it? In 2018, according to the US Public Interest Research Group Educational Fund, toxic levels of asbestos were discovered in Playskool crayons, made in China, where many talc deposits are known to be contaminated by asbestos. So chalk, crayons, all this stuff. If inhaled, it is possible the toxicity levels are high enough to cause [00:09:03] or lung cancer. If ingested, which kids put this stuff in their mouth all the time, it is also possible that the asbestos could cause cancer or poisoning. The asbestos is most likely a contaminant that most companies are used in crayons as a strengthener for the paraffin and coloring agents. So it’s not just an environmental thing that showed up in the crayons, it is a deliberate ingredient that they’re putting in the crayons to create more strength. Come on, people. There’s a lot better choices than that. Something that’s a known carcinogen, you’re going to put it in crayons that children are using? Come on, this is crazy. The crayons tested were being sold at the dollar stores. So, listen, if you’re buying cheap stuff, you better not be buying from these products. There was a wide test done. Dollar stores in Chicago and the same products were being sold online and places like dollarsday.com, eBay, and Amazon. Six other brands of crayons were tested from Houston to Denver to California to Chicago. Only the Playskool crayons, Parent Company, Hasbro tested positive for tremolite asbestos. The asbestos-free products, including Crayola, Target Up, Crazy Art, Disney, those were the only ones that apparently tested free. So there is being some pushback. As of 2020, still, asbestos is found in crayons as tested and carried out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, ACCC. A lot of that is in the show notes. Dr. Michael Harbut, director of the Centre of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Detroit, the metabolism of a young child is such that they even are more sensitive to toxins. Levels of asbestos exposure that would do minimal harm to an adult can cause serious disease in a child after latency period has run its course. So over a long period of time, and then a lot of people are melting these crayons, and so then it’s airborne and that can cause some serious toxins and fumes from the pigments to be airborne. We need to be aware that the natural low, volatile organic compounds which are caused by all of these crayons in landfills, the VOCs as the byproducts that these are causing continued and mounting environmental conflicts. In 1936, the Crayon Water Colour Craft Institute known today as the Art and Creative Material Institute, was found to promote safety and art materials for children. The institute has an independent board-certified toxicology responsible for reviewing all of these materials. It is worth noting that Crayola was the founding member of this institute. So there is a conflict of interest. And it seems as though that those testing for asbestos is still showing up. So they’ve failed at flagging and they founded the agency that’s supposed to be a third party. So there’s a lot of safety issues as it relates to, not as much lead anymore, but that’s still scary as well as the mounting evidence of asbestos. Now, I’m not here to slam Crayola, but they are the big market. They also have been doing a lot of “a lot of environmental work,” but I did find that $1.5 million in state energy programs and grants, they’ve been privately funded by the Pennsylvania Power and Light. Crayola belt, one-megawatt solar farm. That’s cool. Even though solar in its inception isn’t that sustainable either. For the past decade, Crayola has been using solar. Solar power invests 100% into renewable energy. Okay, cool. Well, thanks for that. Just don’t create toxic frickin crayons anymore. So one thing you can do is you can buy recycled crayons that are proven asbestos and lead-free. That’s one thing you can do because they throw out millions of pounds a year. Also, the National Crayon Recycle Program, you can check that out. And there are new crayons called Crazy Crayons. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they use from recycling. So other things that you can use that are a lot safer, find soybean-based non-GMO crayons. Also palm wax is great, beeswax is fantastic made from the honeycomb and that can be also termed ‘vegetable wax.’ So there are some great reliable sources here. I have in the show notes, insider.com, Environmental Working Group has a great study that I’ll find here and also other alternatives and brands. So that’s it. I mean, every time I think there’s not going to be much about my inkling of one of these fatal conveniences, there’s always this deep path of profit center without the real guidelines of health. And when they do know that they’re doing things that are causing harm, they don’t make changes until we push back. So stop buying Crayola unless they’re going to change their policies and get rid of paraffin, get rid of all of the asbestos. Hopefully, not make it out of China, hard to trust, and not put toxic crayons in our children’s hands and mouth. So I love crayons. I want some right now, but just don’t support the paraffin in the oil industry. So that’s it. For all the parents, make sure that if you’re a parent, you pass this episode on to other parents and other schools. Listen to this episode and educate your whole school system on the recycling program of safe crayons as well as using safe, effective, environmentally friendly, and healthy produced crayons. I love you all. Stay happy and really stay healthy.
Darin: Thanks for tuning in everyone. I hope that left you feeling inspired to take a closer look at the everyday choices you’re making and how they could be impacting your health and even planet. If you want to learn more about life’s fatal conveniences, head over to fatalconveniences.com. You can sign up for the exclusive access to Fatal Conveniences episodes, news, insights, and more. And all this great stuff gets sent each week straight to your inbox, making it really easy. Now, that’s a convenience without the negative side effects. It only takes a few seconds to join. Just fill in the form and take that amazing step towards making better choices. Remember, small changes can have big impact. So, keep diving my friends, keep diving. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the interview, I released earlier on the week, here’s what you missed:
Dr. Jerry: The human body is a portable electronic device. And all portable electronic devices must have a battery system. So indeed, the body has five different batteries. The major batteries in our body are actually our muscles. Our muscles are what are called piezoelectric. So what’s that funny word mean? Well, if you take a piece of quartz and you squeeze it with a pair of pliers, it emits electrons. So any time you distort something then that causes it to emit electrons. That phenomenon is called piezoelectricity. So every time I move my muscles, exercise, move around, or whatever, my muscles are actually generating voltage, generating electrons. And fortunately, my muscles are also rechargeable batteries. So all of our muscles are stacked one on top of each other in a very specific order, like stacking batteries in a flashlight to form a power pack. So every organ in the body has its own battery pack.
Darin: This episode is produced by my team at Must Amplify, an audio marketing company that specializes in giving a voice to a brand and making sure the right people hear it. If you would like or are thinking about doing a podcast or even would like a strategy session to add your voice to your brand in a powerful way, go to www.mustamplify.com/darin. That’s www.mustamplify.com/darin.