Thursday 18 October 2018

Parents warned over lethal chemical found in toy beads

Aideen Sheehan, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

PARENTS have been urged not to let their children play with Bindeez beads because of fears they could be contaminated with a potentially lethal chemical used by clubbers to get high.

The warning comes as retailers in Ireland warned there could be shortages of some popular toys this Christmas due to the impact of a spate of recent recalls including yet another one by toymaking giant Mattel this week.

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) issued a safety alert yesterday over crystal bead sets and other craft toys made by Bindeez Ltd in Australia and sold in Irish toy stores.

This came after three children in Australia were hospitalised after swallowing the beads, which had been contaminated with the chemical 1,4 Butanediol which can be converted by the body into Gamma-Hydroxy Butyrate, a clubber's drug known as GHB or Fantasy.

GHB is a euphoric that is also used by body builders and has been used as a date rape drug.

The NCA warned that beads contaminated with the chemical, "if swallowed, could cause serious harm to children including seizures, drowsiness, coma and possibly death".

Their UK and Ireland distributor Character Options Ltd said that ingredients used to manufacture some batches of Bindeez beads did not match the approved formula, and though they believed their supplies were safe, they were carrying out independent laboratory tests to check if they were safe, the results of which were expected to be available within two days.

NCA Chief Executive Ann Fitzgerald said that at the moment this was a safety alert, not a recall, but if the tests showed Bindeez toys imported to Ireland and the UK were contaminated, they would be recalled.

Safe

"In the meantime we urge consumers who have bought Bindeez products to stop using them and put them in a safe place until further information is available," she said.

They had also asked Irish toy stores to remove them from sale until the test results were in.

Meanwhile, one of Ireland's leading toystore chains has warned of possible shortages of toys in the run-up to Christmas due to increased safety checks introduced in China after a flood of safety recalls this year.

Byrne's World of Wonder Marketing Manager James Byrne said that, although they had tried to overcome delays by ordering earlier than usual, the impact would be strongest closer to Christmas, as they tried to get repeat orders of the most popular items, making it vital parents purchased "must-have" toys in plenty of time.

The Chinese government had imposed new checks and restrictions on factories as a result of problems earlier this year, and the bureaucratic nature of these was causing supply difficulties, he said.

It had been a bad year for recalls, with millions of Mattel toys recalled due to design problems with small parts and the illegal use of lead paint, which had caused consumer concerns, he said.

"I would not have wished it, it's a total headache, but you cannot take any risk when it comes to children," he said,.

The latest Mattel recall involved the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Learning Kitchen, which would be a very popular item in Ireland, he said.

Some 7,000 of these are being recalled in Britain and Ireland, and 155,000 worldwide after they proved to be a choking hazard for young children.

Mattel had to recall 21 million toys during the summer because of lead paint and dangerous small magnets.

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