It was nearly two years ago that independent research uncovered the presence of deadly asbestos in a child’s toy, based on the popular CBS television program, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It was found that the CSI toy’s fingerprinting powder contained asbestos. The fingerprinting powder is included in CSI-themed investigation toy kits including the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation™ Fingerprint Examination Kit (CSI Exam Kit) and the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation™ Forensic Lab Kit (CSI Lab Kit). This week, a proposed settlement of a nationwide class action against CBS Broadcasting, Inc. and major toy retailers would, if approved, give cash refunds to consumers and effectively implement a nationwide recall of the toy kits.
The lawsuit was filed in early 2008 in federal and California state courts against CBS Broadcasting, Inc., Planet Toys, Inc., and several retail manufacturers in response to their production and marketing of CSI toy kits containing asbestos. Asbestos is the only known cause of the deadly cancer mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the chest or, more rarely, the abdomen or the heart. There is know known cure for mesothelioma. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
The suit came in response to the findings of an 18-month independent study conducted by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of “asbestos awareness, education, advocacy, prevention, support and a cure.” In November 2007, ADAO publicly released its findings, which tested more than 250 commonly found consumer products for asbestos. Three independent, government-certified laboratories participating in the study confirmed the presence of asbestos in the white fingerprint powder of the CSI Exam Kit.
ADAO met with representatives from CBS and Planet Toys in December 2007 to discuss its findings about the fingerprint powder. As a result, Planet Toys asked retailers to stop sales of the CSI Exam Kit pending further investigation. But the company refused to stop sales of the CSI Lab Kit, which contained the same fingerprint powder, and refused to voluntarily recall the products from consumers’ homes.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, 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, Amazon.com, Buy.com, Sears, Kmart, and QVC. Consumers seeking refunds must submit a claim form to a claims administrator by January 14, 2010, and have the option of sending the toy kits to the claims administrator at no cost.
Planet Toys, the kits’ manufacturer, is not part of the settlement because it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in March 2009.