LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – The parents of a Jacksonville toddler were horrified when their child swallowed part of a colorful toy bead set made in China and then passed out.
He apparently was overcome when the coating on the beads metabolized into a chemical compound known as the ‘date rape drug.’
‘I thought he was going to die. I didn’t want to tell my kids that, of course, but I thought he was going to die,’ said Shelby Esses, whose son Jack swallowed a handful of Spin Master Aqua Dots the day before Halloween. ‘It was horrible.’
In the latest recall involving Chinese toymakers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday ordered Aqua Dots off store shelves.
Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.
Spin Master Aqua Dots can be arranged into designs and then fused together when sprayed with water.
Jack Esses, 20 months old, started stumbling and throwing up the Aqua Dots after playing with his sister’s set on Oct. 30, his mother said in an interview Thursday. For a time, he slipped out of consciousness — waking up only to vomit.
‘I thought that the Aqua Dots had to have done something, but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t think they were toxic. There was no warning on the box that said they were toxic. It just said that they were a choking hazard,’ the child’s mother said.
Jack’s father Jonathan is training to pilot C-130 planes at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.
Dr. Matt Jaeger of Arkansas Children’s Hospital treated the child and said he was very worried when he first saw him. The hospital started tests and performed a head scan, but within hours the boy recovered.
‘He got better so fast we ended up letting him go home,’ Jaeger said.
Scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into gamma hydroxy butyrate, the so-called date rape drug. The compound can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.
‘He was out for about six hours, and he woke up just kind of on his own and, within minutes, was back to his normal self,’ Shelby Esses said. ‘He was just happy and yelling and wanting to get out of the hospital and causing a stir. All of the nurses wanted to come see him.’
Before the child was released, his father crawled around on the carpet at home to make sure every Aqua Dot was out of the house.
Australia-based Moose Enterprises distributes the toys in 40 countries.
Jaeger said the hospital lab was able to identify the chemical involved after Shelby Esses brought in toy components for testing.
Retailer Toys ‘R’ Us issued a ‘stop sale’ for Aqua Dots on Tuesday in its North American stores and on its Web site after it learned of the news.
In Australia, the toy was named toy of the year at an industry function. But the toys, known as Bindeez in that country, were ordered off store shelves on Tuesday when officials learned that a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were hospitalized after swallowing the beads. A 19-month-old toddler also was being treated.
Since the spring, toy companies have recalled millions of Chinese-made goods worldwide. Products including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about lead paint or tiny detachable magnets that could be swallowed.
A company spokeswoman for Moose Enterprises’ Hong Kong office said Aqua Dots production was outsourced to a mainland Chinese factory. She refused to elaborate and referred all further requests for comment to the company’s head office in Australia.
Moose Enterprises said Bindeez and Aqua Dots are made at the same factory in Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province.
The toys were supposed to be made using 1,5-pentanediol, a nontoxic compound found in glue, but instead contained the harmful 1,4-butanediol, which is widely used in cleaners and plastics.
The Food and Drug Administration in 1999 declared the chemical a Class I Health Hazard, meaning it can cause life-threatening harm.
Both chemicals are manufactured in China and elsewhere, including by major multinational companies, and are also marketed over the Internet.
It’s not clear why 1,4-butanediol was substituted, though there is a significant price difference. The Chinese online trading platform ChemNet China lists the price of 1,4-butanediol at between about $1,350-$2,800 per metric ton, while the price for 1,5-pentanediol is about $9,700 per metric ton.
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