November 8, 2007

China Has Another Present For Your Kids - Date-Rape Intoxication

As if the Chinese toy industry had not dug its own grave any deeper, the Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered another import recalled after determining that ingestion can cause chemicals to convert to GHB. That compound is commonly known as the date-rape drug, and both the US and Australia have scrambled to get Aqua-Dots and Bindeez out of the hands of children:

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 last summer.

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

Gamma hydroxy butate can cause unconsciousness, drowsiness, seizures, and death -- and that's in adults. GHB has been used by rapists to instill lethargy, unconsciousness, and amnesia in their victims, usually in a dating situation or at bars and nightclubs. Ingestion by children carries even more health dangers; the children involved in the US and Australia are lucky to have survived it.

Unfortunately, it will take luck to save children in other countries. The Chinese manufacturer will not issue a worldwide recall of the product despite the demonstrated dangers. Beijing and the manufacturer have decided that the individual countries have to decide whether to recall the products, even though they know the toys present a clear danger to the children who play with them.

Consumers in these countries, including ours, should take matters into their own hands. We should make clear that this Christmas, Santa Claus will not deliver any Chinese imports -- period. Until they clean up their act and take responsibility for potentially poisoning millions of children, several times over now, consumers should take close looks at manufacturing labels for their gifts. If it says "Made in China", we should skip over that product, and tell the stores why.

I'm certainly not going to buy any presents for the Little Admiral that comes from a country that refuses to act when their product converts to a poison when ingested. Once parents, grandparents, and families think about the implications, I'm certain that most will follow that same path.


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