Aqua Dots Maker Agrees To $1.3 Million Fine

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just announced that Spin Master, Inc., the maker of <"">Aqua Dots, of Los Angeles, California, and Spin Master Ltd. of Toronto, Canada, (“Spin Master”) have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,300,000. The Commission provisionally accepted the penalty agreement in a unanimous 5-to-0 vote.

The settlement resolves staff allegations that Spin Master knowingly failed to report the defect and hazard associated with its Aqua Dots product to the CPSC immediately, as required by federal law as well as CPSC staff allegations that Spin Master knowingly imported and sold Aqua Dots, a toxin and banned hazardous substance, in violation of federal law.

As we’ve written and the CPSC notes, Aqua Dots were a children’s craft kit and toy comprised of tiny, different colored beads that stuck together when sprayed with water, allowing children to create various shapes and designs.

CPSC staff alleges that by mid-October 2007, Spin Master received reports that children, and a dog, fell ill and received emergency medical treatment after ingesting Aqua Dots. On October 18, 2007, Spin Master learned that Aqua Dots contained 1,4-butylene glycol (TMG), which, upon ingestion, metabolizes to the controlled substance gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). As we’ve previously explained, GHB is popularly known as the “date rape” drug. The next day, Spin Master learned that TMG is harmful if swallowed and, upon ingestion, targets the kidneys and central nervous system.

CPSC staff also alleges that in ensuing days and weeks, Spin Master continued to receive reports of children becoming sick after ingesting Aqua Dots and that children who ingested a similar product containing TMG—manufactured by the same overseas factory—were sickened. In every case, Spin Master did not report the incidents to the CPSC in a timely manner.

In early November 2007, the Commission received two reports of children who ingested the product and became so ill that they had fallen into comas and required hospitalization. On November 5, 2007, CPSC staff advised Spin Master of the illnesses; two days later, Spin Master and CPSC announced a massive, voluntary recall of about 4.2 million units of Aqua Dots. The release can be accessed at: The release noted that children who swallow Aqua Dots can fall into comas, develop respiratory depression, or suffer seizures. Spin Master hired an outside testing company to evaluate the toxicity of Aqua Dots; however, the testing was considered inadequate.

Aqua Dots craft kits were sold nationwide from April 2007 to November 2007, for between $17 and $30.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to CPSC immediately—within 24 hours—after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by CPSC. In this case, Commission staff alleges that the Aqua Dots’ chemical composition rendered the product a banned hazardous substance. Federal law prohibits the importation and sale of banned hazardous substances.

In agreeing to the settlement, Spin Master denies CPSC staff allegations that it knowingly violated the law.

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