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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           Connecticut Department of Public Health

April 23, 2008                                        Contact: William Gerrish

                                                                (860) 509-7270

Hartford  On April 22nd at a special ceremony held at Faneuil Hall in Boston, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) New England recognized Avon resident Brian Toal with a 2008 EPA Environmental Merit Award presented to the Connecticut Department of Public Health for his efforts to protect the health of children in Connecticut Schools from asbestos-containing talc in art clay.  Each year, EPA New England honors those who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of our region’s public health and our natural environment.


Mr. Toal, who is an Epidemiologist and Supervisor of the CT Department of Public Health (DPH), Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program, worked to have a major art clay supplier voluntarily agreed to stop shipping art clay with asbestos-containing talc within Connecticut and agreed to exchange any previously sold clay with asbestos containing talc with a non-talc alternative.  In addition, Mr. Toal was able to work with the Art & Creative Materials Institute to require member manufacturers using talc to reformulate their products within six months (from June 2007) replacing talc with suitable alternatives.  Exposure to asbestos has been linked to lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.


DPH Commissioner J. Robert Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., stated “the contribution that Mr. Toal is recognized for will have long-lasting, significant environmental and public health benefits not only for the children and residents of Connecticut and New England, but also for the entire country.


DPH oversaw the remediation and monitored the removal of asbestos at several contaminated schools in a school district.  The schools in question were extensively investigated for sources of asbestos and subsequently professionally cleaned.  During regular follow-up air monitoring of a middle school, elevated levels of anthophyllite asbestos were found in the art room.  As a result of public concerns, DPH initiated a review of the potential public health significance of asbestos contamination in art clays sold to schools. 


The DPH learned that some clay may have asbestos contamination as a result of talc added as a flux to lower the temperature at which the clay needs to be heated.  Through research, the DPH also became aware that the talc from a mine in the Northeast may be contaminated with anthophyllite asbestos.  Given the potential for dried pieces of clay to create dust or the clay pieces to be sanded or chipped, the DPH was concerned that if such talc was used in Connecticut schools, it could cause exposure to asbestos in art rooms. 


The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state.  To contact the department, please visit its website at or call (860) 509-7270.