Study Confirms AquaDots Contained High Levels of Date Rape Drug

Reports of children becoming unconscious after swallowing <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">Aqua Dots beads resulted in a recall in November and a seizure of merchandise in December.  At the time, it was widely reported that the potentially toxic chemical 1,4-butanediol—BD—was used in place of the benign, nontoxic, yet more expensive 1,5-pentanediol—PD—in the manufacture of the beads.  A new study, led by Dr. Jeffrey Suchard of the University of California, Irvine confirms these reports and that Aqua Dots contained no 1,5-PD at all, but instead contained a very high level—nearly 14 percent—of extractable 1,4-BD.

Thousands of cartons of the dangerous Aqua Dots toy were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and seized at the port of Savannah last December following the November recall.  The cartons were bound for American shores from China and represented about $2 million dollars worth of the poisonous toys.  When mixed with water, the toys formed GHB, the date rape drug, a banned and hazardous substance.

According to Suchard’s study, ingesting several dozen Aqua Dots beads containing these levels of 1,4-BD—which metabolize after ingestion to gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a central nervous system depressant commonly known as the “date-rape drug”—would be enough to cause the dangerous physical side effects reported in the children who consumed the toys:  Vomiting and self-limited comas.  The AquaDots contained no 1,5-pentanediol, a nontoxic chemical, which was completely replaced with the toxic 1,4-butanediol.

Aqua Dots is a craft kit distributed in the United States and globally by Spin Master Toys, based in Toronto, Canada.  The Chinese-made toys were sold by retailers nationwide and through the Internet from April 2007 through November 2007.  The kits cost between $17 and $30 and allowed children to create various multi-dimensional designs using small colored beads which fuse together when sprayed with water. The product was available in a variety of kits with accessories such as a drying fan, an applicator pen, bead design templates, and a spray bottle.

When the AquaDots were moistened—when misted, according to the product’s directions or swallowed—the chemical on the toy that fused the beads together would turn into the date rape drug when swallowed.   When ingested, GHB can cause unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma, and even death.  Several children in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom fell ill and were hospitalized—some in comas—after swallowing AquaDots beads.  Aqua Dots had been highly praised and were featured in many parenting magazines as a highly recommended craft toy; in Australia, the Bindeez version was named the toy of the year.  The Chinese government did admit that Aqua Dots were indeed made with a chemical that turns into the so-called date rape drug when swallowed.

Although the toy kits have since been recalled, it is important to note that poisoning events from consumer products and medications containing toxic diols and glycols have been reported for many decades and continue to occur at fairly regular intervals.  “These chemicals appear to have a knack for being inadvertently introduced into such products, despite their known toxicities,” says Suchard.

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