Journal of medical toxicology : official journal of the American College of Medical Toxicology

1,4-Butanediol content of aqua dots children's craft toy beads.

PMID 19655283


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of Aqua Dots (Spin Master Ltd.; Toronto, Canada) on November 7, 2007 due to children becoming ill after swallowing beads from these toy craft kits. Reports suggested that the beads contained 1,4-butanediol (1,4-BD), a precursor to gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), rather than the intended, but more expensive 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PD). We measured the 1,4-BD and 1,5-PD content of Aqua Dots beads to determine if 1,5-PD had been completely substituted with 1,4-BD by the manufacturer, and if the reported clinical effects from swallowing Aqua Dots beads were consistent with the estimated ingested 1,4-BD dose. In vitro bench research using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) was performed. Dilute samples of pure 1,4-BD and 1,5-PD in water were used for the calibration of the GC-MS instrument. We then soaked Aqua Dots beads in water for varying durations, and the resultant solutions were analyzed for 1,4-BD and 1,5-PD content. Aqua Dots beads weighed 79.3 mg each (+/- 0.6 mg, SD), and contained 13.7% (+/- 2.4%, SD) 1,4-BD by weight; this corresponds to a 1,4-BD content of 10.8 mg (+/- 1.9 mg, SD) per bead. No 1,5-PD was detected in any beads. Aqua Dots beads contained a surprisingly high amount (nearly 14%) of extractable 1,4-BD. No 1,5-PD was detected, corroborating reports that this chemical had been completely replaced with a substitute that is metabolized into GHB after ingestion. Reports of ataxia, vomiting, seizure activity, and self-limited coma in children are consistent with the ingestion of several dozen Aqua Dots beads.

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