From Aqua Dots to Aqua Teen: Where’s the Public Safety?

aquadots-recall.jpg The Aqua Dots recall of 4.2 million top-selling toys in the U.S. is the umpteenth case of slipshod quality control and lax product safety this year…Which begs the question, is ANYone with brain cells putting public health ahead of profit?

This is not an isolated CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) “oopsie doodle” along the lines of the Aqua Teen Err(or) guerilla marketing stunt gone awry…It’s more like, “gee, what have we poisoned kids with this round?”

Are we marketing too fast on the fly? (That’s rhetorical, folks. I’d say it’s a given)

Aqua Dots (as seen on TV) are a heavily hyped holiday toy that made the ‘top 12’ Walmart list, only to be yanked back like a prankster spoof, in ‘just kidding, you really can’t have it’ mode…Psyche! In fact, it’s all beginning to feel like a Bill Murray rerun of the film Groundhog Day“poison plastics, here we go again…”

Pick your media source for the reaction d’jour: news videos from the Star, Yahoo, BlogHer, sharp parent bloggers, lead-free toy watchers, Salon, WSJ, CBS, CNET, NYTimes, Businessweek, WebMD, and literally thousands of mamas and Google feeds report and react to yet another tainted toy scandal (parents aren’t even finished flinching from the last ones with Mattel et al this past summer)!

Evidently Aqua Dots (also known as Bindeez in Australia) releases a chemical when ingested that’s akin to GHB (the date rape drug, which the U.S. places in the same category as heroin). Just ducky.

You can bet your bippy plenty of folks are pacing around the “retail returns” counter fuming, “geezus, don’t we have a governing bureau for this?” Therein lies the rub…

News reports focus on the comas, seizures and severity of the M&M look alikes, rightfully sounding alarmist bells for prevention of consuming the beads…

But I predict two media givens here:

One, China will be painted as the fall guy, when U.S. government agencies are equally at fault for shoddy importation standards, and two…The globalization debate will re-emerge to the forefront as election pundits are trotted out to weigh in…

Here’s pro/con commentary and globalization resources on the debate from the Yale forum, a 27 pg. pdf book/white paper from the Center for the Study of American Business, and the Blackwell synergy group on International Affairs. (global arm of the World Bank)…

Oh! And wait! There’s a third ‘given’…Marketers will play the violins and cry in their soup over the potential slump in retail holiday sales, despite Reuters happy chat press to the contrary.

If there’s a downturn and surge in “socks and mittens” instead of toys, they’re covered. If it’s an upswing, it’s a ‘tribute to the economy.” Gotta hedge your bets, right?

Sheesh. Has it come to a global ‘crank it out to make a buck’ philosophy, no matter who it impacts, harms, maims, or psychologically destroys?

Egad, I sure hope not. Please, colleagues, tell me you “see the elephant in the living room.” Pretty, please?

Are you of the belief that it’s a parental problem of ‘just watching your kids’?

More along the lines of ‘I’m a taxpayer and deserve to know the toys I purchase are at least marginally safe?’

Or “hey, it’s yet another overseas recall, no biggie, ‘what’s new, pussycat’, but thanks for the notice…”

We’d love to hear your opinions…All camps…all ages…all thoughts.

Meanwhile, check out Free Range Studios’ video on the campaign for Safe Healthy Consumer Products, at PVC The Poison Plastic ( It’s part of the vinyl plastics and lead-based kids toys found on the CHEJ site. (Center for Health, Environment & Justice)

Worthy indeed. They also have great ‘action steps’ which must be working, because Target just announced they’ll join the plastic pullback too, as you can see here in this resource roundup at Be Safe. net!

Woohoo, about time we had a smidge of good news on behalf of the kids, eh?

p.s. In aligned news, for Free Range Film Fans: (those of us that adore ‘activist’ media)

Here’s more about PVC plastics, lead contaminants, and other no-nos for kids to be chompin’ on, from today’s newsletter:

“Free Range Fans, Remember the interactive Sam Suds, the Poison Investigator?

Sam, a bar of soap, is a Free Range creation. He was developed to spread the word about the dangers of PVC and to get this poisonous plastic banned from Target Stores. What can a bar of soap and his friends do to influence a giant like Target? Check this out:

Today, Target stores have just announced the systematic removal of PVC from their stores!

This win is the result of a year-long effort by The Campaign for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), which organized 230 press conferences, protests (some of which included a 25-foot rubber ducky), and events at Target stores across the country. Over 75,0000 people watched Free Range’s film Sam Suds and the Case of PVC, The Poison Plastic, moving thousands of viewers to action. On the day of Target’s 2007 annual shareholder meeting, CHEJ ran an advertisement in USA Today calling on the company to “stop ducking the truth about the dangers of PVC.”

CHEJ’s efforts, along with your support, have led to this critical breakthrough in the case against PVC. Thanks CHEJ, bravo Sam Suds, and congratulations Free Range Fans!

We urge you to keep up this fight– watch the movie again and help CHEJ encourage other major retailers to remove PVC from their stores:”

And in Washington news: (from, worldwide)

“Toys `R’ Us Asia Ltd., a unit of Hong Kong-based Li & Fung Group, removed all Bindeez items from its stores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia in response to the sale ban in New South Wales, according to a Nov. 6 statement.

Safety has become a political issue in the U.S. after Nancy Nord, acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said she objected to provisions in legislation that would increase fines and toughen rules for companies that sell dangerous products. Democrats in Congress demanded she resign, calling her out of touch with the concerns of consumers.

Nord says the measure, which passed the Senate Commerce Committee last week, would divert scarce resources from tracking unsafe products.”

Um, yeah…beginning to see the conundrum?

Visual Credit: NYTimes, Google Images



  1. GOOD LORD! That’s freaky. We used to make all sorts of animals with those things in extended care programs before/after school.

    Have officially passed this info on to my park distict friends.

    You’re amazing, Amy! Thanks for the fantastic bloggerness!

  2. Izzy, congrats on your new job…is it ‘reportable’ yet?

    I was hoping to see you next week, and fly down to L.A. for the USC Virtual Worlds/MacArthur Foundation panel but Common Sense Media says they’ll be doing a similar one up here in the Bay area in April, so I’m hoping to just interview Anastasia about the content. (guess I’d better give her a heads-up, huh?)

    As far as the Aqua Dots go…they’re not the same as those ‘iron into place’ thingies…(melts the plastic, etc.) I’ve forgotten the name already…but after school programs are teeming with them…

    Aqua Dots are bigger in size…more like M&Ms —

    On a similar recall note, if you’re forwarding park district pals, there’s a great advocacy link to the Consumers Union campaign to get lead out of children’s products altogether…so we don’t have to keep wondering what babes are teething on in their mouths from various manufacturers overseas. Here’s the link:

    Evidently there’s a piece of legislation up for vote in the Senate…here’s their clip,

    “With holidays around the corner, everyone wants to be sure that the presents they buy and the gifts they receive will bring joy — not injury — to children!

    More than 20 million children’s toys have been recalled this year, alone! Yet, recalled toys still make their way onto store shelves and into our homes.

    The safety agency in charge — the Consumer Product Safety Commission — is grossly under-funded and understaffed. Congress must provide the ill-equipped agency the resources and authority it needs to keep children’s products safe.

    We need you to contact your Senator immediately. Tell them to vote to keep S. 2045 strong by increasing the tools and resources the CPSC has to protect us from unsafe products, and ban lead in all children’s products.”

  3. Here’s the letter the Consumer Products Safety Commission is proposing people send to their Senators in terms of giving the CPSC more clout in the ‘lead’ category…which actually applies to ALL unsafe products…

    Some good ‘action steps’ are found here:

    “Clearly, our safety net is broken and the agency charged with protecting us from unsafe and dangerous products is not doing its job.

    Please give the CPSC the tools and resources it needs to protect all of us from unsafe products. The agency needs to be able to hire more inspectors and it needs to have meaningful criminal penalties at its disposal to deter wrongful behavior. There just is no safe level of lead exposure.

    I also ask that you:
    — Require independent third-party testing and ensure that testing laboratories are meeting the highest safety standards. Manufacturers, retailers, and importers have failed to police themselves.

    — Lift restrictions in the law that limit’s the CPSC’s ability to communicate important safety information to the public. Currently, companies call the shots in determining whether certain important safety information ever sees the light of day.

    — Make sure the states are able to continue to protect their residents from unsafe products. Give State Attorneys General authority to bring suits on behalf of consumers harmed by a company’s safety violation.

    We can do better. Please help restore my confidence in the safety of our products, especially children’s toys, and support and strengthen S. 2045 during the Commerce Committee’s mark-up session!” –CPSC

  4. is a fabulous resource for concerned parents on a variety of topics, but this one “Keeping Our Kids Safe From Tainted Toys” was spot on with great links for action: Here’s the link to get to the embedded links directly:

    And here’s a reprint snapshot:

    ” Posted November 1st, 2007 by Speaker Nancy Pelosi

    As mothers, there is no greater concern than the safety of our children. Yet with the recent reports of lead in toys for kids, moms and dads now have a new worry. If the recalls of toy jewelry, trains, and Halloween candy pails weren’t upsetting enough, yesterday we learned that Halloween “Ugly Teeth” were recalled –on Halloween day itself! Lead in toys is unacceptable; lead in toys children are supposed to put in their mouth is criminal.

    This summer, 20 million imported toys that were manufactured overseas were recalled–some of which contained nearly 200 times the legal limit for lead. The most heartbreaking for me was the recall of some Thomas the Tank Engine toys, a favorite among my five grandsons.

    We must make sure that government lives up to its responsibility to protect our children. Parents should not have to buy a lead testing kit before letting their children play. We have a consumer protection agency to do that. Yet at the Consumer Safety Protection Commission, there is only one inspector charged with testing toys to make sure they are safe for our children. And recently, when the chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission was asked by Congress if she would request an increase of resources and funding for the commission, she refused to support this much needed action. I know we can do better.

    Congress is determined to help parents who are frustrated. That is why we are working to pass legislation that will ban lead from children’s toys, require testing of children’s products by independent, third-party laboratories, and provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with significantly greater resources to protect our families. For too long, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has failed to protect kids from hazardous levels of lead in their toys.

    The evidence of how lead in toys harms children is overwhelming. Many years of research have shown that exposure to this neuro-toxin can have serious long-term effects, particularly on children. While the recent recalls have brought the issue to popular attention, the problem is, unfortunately, not a new one. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, millions of pieces of toy jewelry were recalled due to unsafe levels of lead.

    With this legislation, we will ensure that there are no more stories like that of Jarnell Brown, a four-year-old who died in 2006 after swallowing a charm on a bracelet that contained over 99 percent lead. But we need your help. Get in touch with your Representative and Senator, and urge them to support legislation to protect our children.

    I want to thank the MomsRising community for working to eliminate toxic toys. By passing this legislation and continuing our vigorous oversight, we will work to make certain not one more child is harmed by the toys we give them — our children deserve nothing less, and certainly much more.”
    –Nancy Pelosi

  5. Also, here’s Pelosi’s direct link to the various recalls/legislation and CPSC fixes needed (one inspector? egad)

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