Monday, February 11, 2008

Expanding toys are hazardous

If you feel like eating candy, and by coincidence there is some candy right in front of you and you know that it is a present for you, will you take it and put it in your mouth? Or will you first explore it by all your senses and seek a second opinion in order to be sure that it really is candy, because some evil cosmic conspiracy might supply you with objects that look like candy but actually aren't? David Hume would vote for the thorough exploration. His philosophy states that our experience cannot teach us about regularities in the real world, so we are only deluding ourselves that what looks like apple will always taste like apple, while in reality it may next time taste like cheese. Hume's ideas, although defying common sense, useless in science and as depressing as Hell, are impossible to disprove. And I have discovered that they can be true in any sense you like.
On Sunday, we were at a party on the occasion of a family member just returned from the USA. As the host was shuttling between the dining-room and the kitchen, the other adults were sitting at the dinner table and my 4.5-year-old son was exploring the presents. They were piled on another table 3 meters away from us. I was watching him from time to time, but didn't pay much attention because he is already quite reasonable. I mean, he has passed the stage when children break or put in their mouths everything they touch.
I saw my son finding some chocolate and helping himself. Then, he took some packed coloured capsules that looked like candy. I thought they were and didn't intervene. Happily, my husband went to the table with the presents. As he told me later, he also wanted a candy.
However, when he looked at the package with the product description, it turned out not to be candy at all. The objects were "toys comprising of foam plastic which have been compressed and placed in a gelatine capsule that expands when placed in liquid" (quote from an act banning this product in Australia; for Bulgarian readers, "foam" here means "dunapren"). There was a warning on the package, "Not a food product. Do not swallow." WTF?! You manufacture an expanding foam object looking quite like a food product, you intend it to be used by children too young to read and you think you have done all your duties to public safety by putting a warning label?
By this time, my son had unpacked 3 capsules. Two of them were found in a cup, apparently spitted out after some chewing. My son referred to them as "chewing gum". However, the third one was nowhere to be seen and when we asked the child whether he had swallowed it, he said "yes".
We put the other two capsules in warm water to see what would happen. They expanded into animal shapes with maximum sizes about 5:1:1.5 cm. There was a doctor among the guests. He said that a soft, compressible object of this size would pass through the digestive tract uneventfully. Happily, he was proven right, at least in this case. Several hours ago, my son had a bowel movement and I found there the foam object. Another blogger recently asked his readers to define happiness. I could tell him that happiness is when you see the foreign body ingested by your child passed naturally without complications.
I'd wish to keep the story to myself and my closest friends, because it doesn't speak well of my parenting. However, I feel obliged to make it public in order to warn other parents. The expanding toys may be amusing but they are surely dangerous. Stay away from them, don't give them to any child. I hope that governments of USA and other countries will follow Australia's lead and ban these hazardous toys before some child suffers an accident with not so fortunate outcome.


Estranged said...

Children are very active and no matter how careful, restrictive and even hyper-protective my family was (they were trying to protect me from every possible danger), that didn't save me from running on the school roof, hanging for my life in an empty elevator shaft and some other events for which they didn't learn.

However, Hume's ideas can be shown as useless by this very story, because even if we face such a candy illusion, we can take action against it, rather than accepting it as a part of a bigger illusion.

Maya M said...

I hope that none of my children will ever try a roof or an elevator shaft! I have done some thing as a child, too, but you were beginning from where I was finishing!
I agree about Hume, but still I think we should borrow something from his ideas: In an unfamiliar environment, our experience is largely useless and we mustn't rely on it.

Casdok said...

'Happiness is when you see the foreign body ingested by your child passed naturally without complications.'
I can very much relate to that!!

Maya M said...

My sympathy!