Toxic toys for toddlers

The other day my 3-year-old son and I took a break from tossing the old lawn darts, so he could eat handfuls of the colorful beads that came in his Aqua Dots play set and lick the face of his beloved Curious George doll.

OK, I stretched the truth a little bit. I don’t have a son, but if I did, he would be dead after an afternoon like that.

Last March, our pets were at risk, due to dog and cat food that had been manufactured with wheat gluten imported from China. It turns out the wheat gluten contaminated by a toxic chemical called melamine, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s website.

Shortly after this incident, it became apparent that children who were in danger because of ignorantly manufactured junk from China. This time, it was toys coated in lead paint. They began finding them over the summer, and I’m sure there are still plenty of toxic toys floating around.

The last batch of flawed products from China, as reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Administration, includes lead-painted Curious George dolls, pairs of lead-painted yellow children’s sunglasses, an AC power adapter for keyboards and electric drum sets that can cause electric shock, a portable DVD player that can burst into flames and a crib that can strangle babies. And that was just the information released by the organization on Thursday.

We like to feel safe from shoddy products in this modern, super-regulated age that we live in, but the things we buy can still kill and maim us. This is probably always going to be the case; danger is a part of life. However, I thought we had at least advanced far enough to avoid giving poison to children. Or using date-rape drugs to make toys, for that matter.

This brings me to the most ridiculous flawed toy in recent history, Aqua Dots. They’re like that old craft set with the beads that you arrange and melt down using an iron to make a lame, little refrigerator magnet, but safer — or so they were supposed to be. Instead of using heat to fuse the Aqua Dots beads, children simply spray them with water and the glue on their surface activates, joining them together to make a lame refrigerator magnet without the risk of third-degree burns.

That sounds ingenious enough, and apparently, it was a pretty big hit with kids. According to CNN, it was made toy of the year in Australia and listed by Wal-Mart as one of the top 12 Christmas toys this year.

Unfortunately, it turns out that little kids like to put small, brightly colored things in their mouths. Some kids even ingested the candy-like beads. That’s when we learned that the glue that had made Aqua Dots so clever has a downside — it turns into gamma-hydroxy butyrate when you eat it.

GHB is a drug that has been used in small doses by folks in the rave scene to induce euphoria and, presumably, to dance around to techno music while playing with glow sticks. In larger doses, it has been used as a date-rape drug.

Unfortunately for American teenagers looking to get whacked out of their minds any way they can, the toy was swiftly taken off the market after the revelation that it contained a popular club drug.

Before that happened though, for a bunch of little kids, the innocence of craft time was interrupted by vomiting, seizures and a frightening coma-like state. Luckily, no children died; they just spent a perilous week or so recovering in the hospital.

Now that consumers have been made aware of this little debacle, and as more hazardous toys from China continue to pop up, I wonder what will be next.

Maybe it will be a teddy bear with the Ebola virus or a baby rattle full of crack rocks. I don’t know, but for now, I’m glad I don’t have kids. Jim Tuttle Daily Collegian Pennsylvania State U-Wire