Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2007
Source: USA Today (US)
Page: 1A, Front Page
Copyright: 2007 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY
Bookmark: (date rape)


Millions of Kids' Aqua Dots Recalled

About 4.2 million Chinese-made children's toys were recalled Wednesday
after U.S. regulators learned a chemical on the toy beads turns into a
powerful "date rape" drug when swallowed.

Two children in the USA went into comas after ingesting beads that
were part of Aqua Dots craft sets. They have recovered, Consumer
Product Safety Commission (CPSC) spokesman Scott Wolfson said. Three
children in Australia, which also recalled the toy, were hospitalized
after swallowing the beads.

The toy, distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master, was sold in the USA
in mass-merchandise stores from April through November of this year,
CPSC said. Wal-Mart named Aqua Dots one of its 12 top toys this year,
and it was the 2007 Toy of the Year in Australia.

The toy came with different accessories such as a drying fan,
applicator pen, design templates for the beads and spray bottle. All
versions are recalled. The product is labeled for ages 4 and up.

The beads can be arranged into designs. The chemical that allows them
to fuse together when sprayed with water metabolizes in the body into
the drug gamma hydroxybutyrate. GHB is known as a "date rape" drug
because it can render people helpless.

Australian officials told Reuters news service that instead of the
safe chemical 1,5-pentanediol, the potentially dangerous chemical
1,4-butanediol was used during manufacturing. When ingested,
1,4-butanediol becomes GHB. It can cause drowsiness, unconsciousness,
seizures, coma and death.

In the USA, a 20-month-old child swallowed several dozen beads, became
dizzy and vomited several times before slipping into a coma. A second
child also vomited and slipped into a coma.

Michael Brown, a former CPSC general counsel, says it's unlikely that
tests conducted by companies to ensure products meet safety standards
likely would have caught the presence of the chemical. "Who would ever
think about that in a toy?" says Brown, now a product safety lawyer.
He says the switch is the kind of problem that occurs when
manufacturers are trying to meet deadlines and run out of materials or
try to cut costs.

"This is a horrifying recall," former CPSC chairwoman Ann Brown says.
"We're just not seeing any let-up in the kinds of dangerous products
coming in from China."

The toy was recalled in both the USA and Australia on Wednesday. Spin
Master says it has stopped shipping the toy. Retailers have removed it
from store shelves.

Consumers can contact Spin Master at 800-622-8339 from 9 a.m. to 6
p.m. ET Monday through Friday. More information can be found at 
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