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Local stores pull toxic kids' toy from shelves

A popular craft toy called Aqua Dots is being recalled from local stores because children in other areas have fallen unconscious after ingesting its tiny beads — which have been found to contain a chemical that converts into a dangerous drug when eaten.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday announced a voluntary recall of Aqua Dots after two children in the United States and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

Consumers should stop using the recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed, officials said.

The recalled toy, which is manufactured in China and distributed in North America by Toronto, Canada-based Spin Master, is a craft kit that allows children to create multi-dimensional designs using small, colored beads that fuse together when sprayed with water.

Scientists have discovered a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the "date rape" drug gamma hydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB. When consumed, GHB can cause unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and, in some rare cases, death.

Toys-R-Us in Medford pulled the toys "a few days ago," said a local manager who declined to be identified. Costco and Wal-Mart pulled the toys late Wednesday or early Thursday after receiving notice of the recall from corporate headquarters, spokespersons said.

A Medford Wal-Mart shopper, Gloria Arenas, said the toys were still being stocked Wednesday night, but a Wal-Mart manager said Thursday the toys had been removed from the shelves.

"They have been pulled," said Medford Wal-Mart manager Danny Lomax.

"My concern is getting the word out," Arenas said. "This (toy) could be very dangerous for a toddler."

In addition to pulling the toxic toys, Wal-Mart has placed an electronic block on cash registers designed to catch any Aqua Dot toys that may have been misplaced or overlooked — and might still be picked up by customers, said company spokesman Kory Lundberg.

The CPSC has received two reports over the past several days of children swallowing Aqua Dots. A 20-month-old child swallowed several dozen beads. He became dizzy and vomited several times before slipping into a coma. He was hospitalized, but has since fully recovered.

A second child also vomited and slipped into unconsciousness and was hospitalized for five days, the report said.

The recall applies to all models of Aqua Dots. The product is available in various kits with accessories such as a drying fan, applicator pen, design templates for the beads, and spray bottle. The product generally sells for $17 to $30, and is labeled for ages 4 and up.

Some smaller local toy stores never carried Aqua Dots. Scheffel's Toys in Jacksonville and Clas E Professor in Medford specialize in toys typically made my smaller manufacturers, the owners said.

"I never carried them," said Linda Graham, owner of Scheffel's Toys. "They are too mass-markety for me."

For more information, call Spin Master's recall hotline at 800-622-8339 or the CPSC recall hotline at 800-638-2772.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.