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Date Rape Drug Chemical Toy Sets Off Scare in Australia, China Suspends Exports

by Gopalan on  November 10, 2007 at 3:26 PM Child Health News   - G J E 4
Date Rape Drug Chemical Toy Sets Off Scare in Australia, China Suspends Exports
Chinese toys said to contain a date rape drug chemical are being pulled off the shelves in the US and Australia. The Chinese government has suspended the export of the toys. But it is now feared a black market could be developing.
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The hugely popular beads, known as Aqua Dots in the United States and Bindeez in Australia, can be arranged into designs and fused together when sprayed with water.

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The beads are meant to be coated in a non-toxic glue, but a batch in Australia was found to be covered with a substance that did not match the approved formula.

Tests showed they were coated with the industrial chemical 1,4-butanediol - which transforms into the banned date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) when swallowed.

The compound — made from common and easily available ingredients — can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

The toy has already hospitalised six children in Australia and New Zealand, with an 18-month-old New South Wales (NSW) Central Coast boy the latest to take ill after eating the beads.

On Friday, he was in a stable condition in Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital after being admitted on Thursday.

Two children in North America have also been hospitalised in a near comatose state after swallowing the beads.

About 4.2 million units of the toy will be recalled in the US, officials said, and about one million in Australia.

New South Wales (NSW) Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney said an international ban was about to be placed on the product.

But opposition fair trading spokeswoman Catherine Cusack said she was worried the bans would not prevent older kids eating the beads in a bid to get high.

She said Queensland police were already investigating a black market in the toys ahead of schoolies week, which attracts thousands of school leavers to the Gold Coast.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has told the Brisbane Courier-Mail she is concerned young people will experiment with the beads.

Cusack told reporters in Sydney that as schoolies week approaches, Queensland police are "looking at a black market of sorts, (with teenagers) trading and ingesting them deliberately in the belief that they may be able to get a drug high similar to the drug fantasy."

She called for a new task force of police and health, education and fair trading officials, to help recover Bindeez sets yet to be returned to manufacturer Moose Enterprise.

Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney labelled Ms Cusack's claims as "bizarre," saying she had no information from NSW police to back up claims of a black market.

"I'm not a chemist but I imagine it would take an enormous amount of Bindeez to have that effect," she said.

Burney said she also found the opposition's task force proposal "odd."

"The idea that somehow police stations and schools should be the repositories for people taking Bindeez and getting them out of the way of their children ... I don't think the police force would appreciate that, and I certainly know school teachers wouldn't," she said.

"The responsibility in Australia for product recall is the distributor. It is not the responsibility of government to knock on the doors of every parent.

"It is up to parents to ensure their children don't have access to Bindeez and should never ever swallow them."

Kidsafe NSW said the Bindeez incident was a timely reminder to all parents and carers to avoid giving small children toys with small components, and which carry the warning "Not suitable for children under three years."

It said the warning should instead read "Dangerous for children under three years."

Source: Medindia
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