The Bizarro Story of Aqua Dots

By now you might have heard of the bizarre Aqua Dots (or Bindeez Craft) recall. As CNN reported this morning, U.S. safety officials have recalled about 4.2 million Chinese-made Aqua Dots bead toys that contain a chemical that has caused some children to vomit and become comatose after swallowing them.

Some interesting things about this particular incident:

  • Another Chinese toy gone bad?
  • It’s “Toy of the Year” in Australia and Wal-Mart’s Top 12 Christmas toys
  • Talk about our world being flat: Aqua Dot’s U.S. toy distributor, Spin Master, is based in Toronto. They did a voluntary recall in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Toys were produced by Moose Enterprises, an Australian company, but factory made in China. Incidentally, Hong Kong researchers are doing tests to confirm the chemical, and if confirmed, suppliers of the toy in Hong Kong could face a year in jail and fines of $12,877.
  • Only when metabolized (converted in body) does it become the toxic “date rape” drug GHB (gamma-hydroxy butyrate)
  • The toys were supposed to use 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.
  • But here’s a possible reason: Price. 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.
  • One of my librarian colleagues noted that if the toy company had bothered to have a chemical information specialist do 5 minutes worth of literature searching, they would have easily been able to anticipate this problem, which was described in detail 4 years ago: Lora-Tamayo, C.; Tena, T.; Rodriguez, A.; Sancho, J. R.; Molina, E. Intoxication due to 1,4-butanediol. Forensic Science International (2003), 133(3), 256-259. CODEN: FSINDR ISSN:0379-0738.
  • It’s too bad, because the Aqua Dots really made kids happy.
  • The Onion made this a joke seven years ago… (Thanks Shady!).

7 thoughts on “The Bizarro Story of Aqua Dots

  1. I lay a great deal of blame on Wal-Mart. They are the nation’s No. 1 retailer and they import upwards of $18 billion worth of goods from China each year. Wal-Mart not only failed to check the quality of these Chinese goods, but they actually placed Aqua Dots on their list of top toys. That’s just plain irresponsible.

    I don’t have a problem with Wal-Mart in general, but when they continue to stock their shelves with toxic Chinese toys I get a little mad.

  2. China would love to see our next generation of children be unintelligent, this is not the first and will not be the last attack on our children from china. I think we should boycott all products from china (they don’t deserve to be capitalized) and thus bring back American ingenuity and creativity….and bring back jobs….thus making our economy a happier one!!!!!!!

  3. I would also love to state that I would rather buy a more expensive American made toy than a cheap china toy that interferes with my child’s health……potentially leading to death. Better more money and less toys under the tree than to have a hefty hospital and lab bills to figure out what is wrong with my children!!!!!

  4. While China bashing is to easiest way to view the situation, we should all note that American manufacturers make more money producing in China than in the US. In the previous Mattel incident, it was the company’s design flaw that lead to the recall of products tainted with lead paint, and has nothing to do with manufacturing flaws in China’s manufacturers. China has its own problems in food and product safety, but US manufacturers aren’t innocent.

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