Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Bindeez beads, a children’s toy from Australia and manufactured by Moose Enterprise in Hong Kong, is being pulled off toy store shelves in the United Kingdom after traces of an illegal drug, which is converted into gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) when ingested, was found inside the toy. At least 20 million toys are affected.
So far at least three children from the U.K. and at least two from Auckland, New Zealand have fallen seriously ill and are currently receiving medical attention. The toy is also sold in the United States as Aqua Dots, with two reports received by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) of children needing hospitalization after ingesting the beads.
“We’ve asked all our customers to take them off the shelf while we retest everything to make sure the toys comply with all regulations,” said the company in a statement, although no mandatory recall has been issued for the product. The statement also says that the plant in Hong Kong was not using a chemical mixture approved by the company.
“This substitution was not at any time approved by Moose nor was Moose made aware of any substitution by the supplier,” added the statement.
The toys were supposed to contain a non-toxic chemical known as 1,5-pentanediol, but instead 1,4-butanediol, which is mainly used in creating the illegal drug GHB, was used in the toys. When humans consume 1,4-butanediol, the body converts it into GHB and could make the individual seriously ill, causing headaches, seizures, dizziness and in some cases death. GHB is a natural chemical found in a variety of things such as beef, wine and some varieties of citrus fruits. It is also used as a pharmaceutical which is sold as Xyrem.
Recent animal research indicates that drugs are available for human use which may work as antidotes to the poison, either by hindering its conversion to GHB with 4-methylpyrazole (fomepizole, Antizol) or by blocking GHB’s effectiveness at the receptor (SCH 50911). Rodent testing has found the lethal dose of 1,4-butanediol to range from 1.4 to 2.5 grams per kilogram body weight, but an antidote can increase the lethal dose by a factor of 10.
It is not known how the chemicals got mixed up, but officials for the toy company say that they are continuing the investigation. The toy is currently banned in all of Australia, but the company says all those who bought it will be refunded their money.
“The issue of how a dangerous substance was used in these beads and not the non-toxic substance … that is going to take us a few more days to uncover,” said Australia’s Fair Trade Minister, Linda Burney in a statement to the press.
The toy was recently named Australia’s number one toy for 2007.