As the Safety Mom, I get e-mails from concerned parents daily, asking me questions about child safety as well as letting me know about products recalls. Last night my in-box was flooded with the news of the latest recall, Aqua Dots, distributed by SpinMaster Ltd. here in the U.S. In case you’re not familiar with the product or have missed the news, this arts-and-crafts toy consists of colorful beads that, when sprayed with water will stick together to form colorful designs. The problem is that if these beads are ingested, the body metabolizes the adhesive into a compound similar to a date rape drug, potentially triggering seizures and even coma. As of this morning, two children in the U.S. were known to have slipped into comas and three in Australia have been hospitalized. Yet again, this was a toy manufactured in China. It was discovered that the manufacturing plant, in order to cut costs, substituted a toxic chemical for a safe glue. Apparently this is common in Chinese manufacturing plants. They will substitute cheaper products to save money, thereby leaving our families vulnerable to tragedies.
What is perhaps equally disturbing is that Aqua Dots was on Walmart’s Top 12 Toys of Christmas list! Most parents would feel safe selecting a toy from this list. Now, moms across America are throwing up their hands and saying "I give up! What’s safe anymore?" On the Aqua Dots box it clearly says that this toy is for children 4+. And, while many moms wouldn’t consider buying this toy for their toddler, what about the older kids in the house? The reality is that try as you might, accidents happen and toddlers get near older sibling’s toys. What’s more, one of the children that was hospitalized in Australia was 10 years old! I tell moms all the time, you can never predict what your child is going to do, no matter how old they are. They don’t necessarily act in a rationale manner. So yes, even an older child could potentially put these beads in her mouth. It’s up to the toy manufacturers to ensure that the toys they are selling to our children are safe. It’s also up to them, as well as the U.S. government, to ensure that quality standards are being upheld in China. Until we can be reassured that this is happening, can we risk our children’s lives? Can we be sure that the gift they’re opening this year won’t end up seriously hurting them or even potentially killing them? As moms, we need to stop and consider each toy very carefully. It’s no longer just small objects that could present a choking hazard or long cords that could cause strangulation that we need to worry about. Electronic toys, painted toys and riding toys all pose serious risk if the manufacturing is substandard – something we really have no way of knowing.
So before you venture out to the mall, consider alternatives – music, books and computer games (age appropriate please) that will be both enjoyable and safe.