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Steven J. Klearman
Steven J. Klearman
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The Date-Rape Toy

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The name Aqua-Dots sends chills down the spine of families in the U.S. If you haven’t heard about the recall that happened last month, then you are likely in the minority. About 4 million units of the product were recalled last month because they break down into a date-rape drug when ingested.

Currently 10 retailers and companies including Kmart, Walmart, Sears, Target and Mattel are being sued for their negligence in distributing Aquadots. Although they did put a disclaimer on the boxes that the dots are not for young children, it’s impossible to police every child every second of every day. It only takes a second for a two-year old to grab a toy on a table and put it in his or her mouth, whether that toy was their elder sibling’s or not. Four Australian children and two American children fell unconscious after ingesting the Aquadots, injuries which should not have happened in the first place.

Chinese companies are using increasing amounts of lead in their products to help increase the speed and volume of the toys that they are sending to the US and other countries. According to Macon.com, “lead poisoning – [is] the subject of about one-third of this year’s recalls… from Oct. 1, 2006, through Sept. 31, 2007.” All told there were about 25.6 million toys recalled this year, though the profiles of recalled toys were much higher this year than in previous years. Some parents are even going so far as to purchase lead testing kits to test on their children’s toys or banning the purchase of Chinese made toys for their families all together.

It is true that products coming to the US must meet US standards, but regulating those products is sometimes sketchy. “It’s not a new problem, but it’s getting worse,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which released its annual report ‘Trouble in Toyland’. “The reason it’s getting worse is that manufacturers have stretched their supply chain to China, and the safety links are broken. Companies are not trying to pay attention to the law because they are not afraid of the CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission].”

So all things considered, it would probably be best to be careful of this year’s toys and especially careful of most things made in China, not just toys. It’s difficult to blame the Chinese for our own woes and even though toy manufacturers are going to put a foul-tasting chemical in Aquadots to prevent children from swallowing them, the fact that they need to in the first place makes a clear point: let the consumer beware.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective and Dangerous Products.