Australian officials were forced to remove a popular toy from store shelves on Tuesday after it was found to contain a chemical that can have hallucinogenic side-effects.
The toy, Bindeez, contains hundreds of small beads that are covered in a chemical which turns into the illegal drug gamma-hydroxy butyrate, also known as fantasy, when swallowed.
Authorities in several states issued an urgent recall of the product, named 2007 toy of the year in Australia, after a number of children became seriously ill when they swallowed them.
Dr Naren Gunja, deputy medical director of the Poisons Information Centre at the Westmead Children’s Hospital, said a two-year-old and a 10-year-old had been admitted to hospital in New South Wales after ingesting the beads.
Each suffered seizures and were unconscious when they got to hospital, leading to fears that the poison could be fatal. However, both children have since recovered.
New South Wales Minister for Fair Trading Linda Burney said all Bindeez would be removed from sale and encouraged parents to ensure their children could not access them.
“I just imagine that there are many, many, many thousands of homes with these toys in them because they are just so popular,” she said.
“They’re colourful, they look like great fun, but they are incredibly dangerous if they are ingested by children, which has been borne out by the two young children taken to hospital very sick in the last week and a half.”
Bindeez has hundreds of the beads that can be arranged into a piece of art and sprayed with water to set.
Australian officials are investigating whether the beads — reportedly made in Hong Kong — were deliberately covered in the chemical, which reacts like GHB, otherwise known as Fantasy. Burney said the company behind Bindeez, Moose World, was cooperating with an inquiry.