Thursday, November 8, 2007

Millions of toys recalled; contain 'date rape' drug

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Millions of Chinese-made toys have been pulled
from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they
contain a chemical that converts into a powerful date rape drug when
ingested. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were
hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

With only seven weeks
until Christmas, the recall is yet another blow to the toy industry --
already bruised by a slew of recalls this past summer.

the United States, the toy goes by the name Aqua Dots, a highly popular
holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys. They are
called Bindeez in Australia, where they were named toy of the year at
an industry function earlier this year.

It could not immediately
be learned whether Aqua Dots beads are made in the same factories as
the Bindeez product. Both are sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises.

toy beads are sold in general merchandise stores and over the Internet
for use in arts and crafts projects. They can be arranged into designs
and fused together when sprayed with water.

Scientists say a
chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the
so-called date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the
compound -- made from common and easily available ingredients -- can
induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

Gunja from Australia's Poisons Information Center said the drug's
effect on children was "quite serious ... and potentially

The recall was announced by the Consumer
Product Safety Commission on Wednesday several hours after published
reports about the recall in Australia.

The two U.S. children who
swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission
spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday afternoon.

In Australia,
the toys 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

The news jolted the toy industry because Aqua Dots has
been one of the few bright stars of the toy selling season, which,
along with overall retailing, has gotten off to a sluggish start. The
item, which had been heavily advertised, had appeared on many toy
experts' list of must-have holiday toys, and toy sellers are now in the
midst of canceling advertising and scrambling to figure out how to
replace it.

Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant, noted
that the incidents could have been isolated, and Spin Master may be
erring on the side of caution.

"This is something that they could not have foreseen. This is an extremely hot toy. ... It's a little scary," Byrne said.

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