China Confirms Danger in Recalled Aqua Dots

Chinese authorities confirm that the popular Aqua Dots toys are coated with an industrial chemical, which when ingested, can turn into gamma hydroxy butyrate, an illegal depressant sometimes called a "date-rape drug" that can cause seizures, comas or death. Millions of the toys were recalled.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Chinese authorities confirmed over the weekend that Aqua Dots toys contained an industrial chemical that can turn into an anesthetic drug when ingested. The U.S. recalled more than four million of the brightly colored beads after children here and in Australia got sick after swallowing them.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN: Aqua Dots looked like they were going to be a popular stocking stuffer until at least nine children in the U.S. and three in Australia became ill after swallowing them. Aqua Dots are little plastic beads that can be arranged into different shapes. The packaging warns that the toys can be harmful as swallowed.

China's top product safety watchdog found that the dots were coated with an industrial chemical, which when ingested can turn into gamma hydroxyl butyrate, an illegal depressant sometimes called a date-rape drug. The drug can cause seizures, comas, or death.

State media reported that the Australia-based Moose Enterprises Company contracted out production of the toys to a Hong Kong company, which in turn outsourced them to the Wangqi Company in Shenzhen City, north of Hong Kong.

China has barred export of the Aqua Dots and revoked the toy company's export license. Aqua Dots are the latest in a string of recalls of unsafe made-in-China products. They've spurred Beijing to launch a product safety cleanup that has shut down hundreds of toy factories in the Shenzhen area.

The recalls have also put pressure on the U.S. government to increase funding and staffing at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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