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Foreign Suppliers Drugging Children; Parents Want to Buy American

unconscious-child.jpgYou may be sick of hearing the words "toy recall" by now, but this one's a little too scary not to mention. Aqua Dots (or Bindeez in Australia), a popular holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys, isn't living up to its "toy of the year" status. Unless you classify a toy as extraordinary based on its capacity for drugging children.

The beads fuse together when sprayed with water, and as an unexpected side effect, they affect the body like the "date rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate when ingested. The consequences: seizures, drowsiness, coma, and even death. Two children in the US and three in Australia have been hospitalized.

Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant, noted that the incidents might have been isolated, and the company may be acting on the side of caution by pulling it from the shelves -- despite it being a bright spot in an otherwise dismal toy-selling season. Um, good idea! Even for the Spin Master, it may be hard to spin this one.

Dr. Matt Jaeger, the Arkansas Children's Hospital doctor who treated 20-month old Jacob Esses after he ingested the beads, told ABC:

"It was pretty dramatic. He was unconscious in this coma for about six hours. And then over the course of just a few minutes, went from being completely asleep to wide awake and playing like nothing ever happened."
Versions of the toy sold in Hong Kong are being tested for 1,4-butanediol, declared a Class I Health Hazard by the FDA in '99; if they come back positive, the supplier could face up to a year in jail and fines of $12,877. Perhaps potential jail time will discourage Chinese suppliers from substituting safe compounds with cheaper, harmful alternatives -- but will it convince American parents that foreign suppliers are done cutting corners to a dangerous degree? American companies better hope so. Parents are trying their hardest to buy American-made, as difficult as that may be.
(Unconscious Child image courtesy of Mark and Allegra, cc 2.0)
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