Capsule sponge toy entered the body of a small child! After suffering from unexplained symptoms for 4 months, the girl had the object removed with general anesthesia.
The Consumer Affairs Agency issued an alert on capsule sponge toys.
At the request of the Consumer Affairs Agency, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (hereinafter called "NCAC") investigated some capsule sponge toys on the market to identify characteristics of the toys.
A capsule sponge toy (hereinafter called "the toy") consists of an outer capsule made of gelatin and a compressed sponge toy inside. When soaked in warm water, the gelatin capsule melts and the sponge toy expands to its original shape (e.g. dinosaur, fruit, animal).
In December 2018, a local consumer affairs center submitted a notice on the toys to the Consumer Affairs Agency to report a serious harmful accident based on the Consumer Safety Act (Act No.50 of June 5, 2009).
While taking a bath, a capsule sponge toy entered the vagina of a four-year-old girl. Parents didn't notice the accident. The girl suffered from symptoms for some time. The cause of her symptoms was found by medical exploration about 4 months later. She had to wait another month to undergo surgery to remove the object.
So far the Consumer Affairs Agency received only one report on accidental entrance of the toy into the body. On the other hand, small children could accidentally swallow the toys, which may lead to pulmonary aspiration (entry of material such as food into the respiratory tract) or suffocation.
Photo 1. Examples of capsules
The approximate size is 22-24 mm in length and 7-8 mm in width.
Photo 2. Examples of expanded sponge toys
When soaked in water, the gelatin capsules melt and the sponge toys expand to their original shape.
The approximate size is 32-33 mm × 42 mm × 6-8 mm, while it slightly varies depending on shapes.
Results of investigating the toys on the market
- The size and shape of capsules are almost same regardless of brands, and similar to capsules used for medicine or dietary supplements. While expanded sponge shapes are varied, all of the toys grew to more than 5 times their original size.
- Test results showed that there was a significant difference in time required for the toys to expand to their original shape depending on water temperature. When soaked in water at 37 degrees C similar to human body temperature, it took 6 to 10 minutes till the gelatin capsules melted and the sponge toys expanded to their original shape. In addition to temperature, other factors like moisture and viscosity may influence the time. In general, it appears to take a few minutes till the capsules melt and the sponge toys expand to their original shape.
- When checking the toys with a small parts tester meeting the Japanese Safety Toy Standard for determining whether or not each object poses a risk of swallowing or choking, all the capsules and expanded sponge toys fitted into the tester. Therefore, households with small children need to take care to avoid accidental ingestion as well as entrance into the vagina.
Advice for consumers
In order to prevent entrance of the toys into the body, pulmonary aspiration and suffocation, note the following points.
- When children play with the toys while bathing, the toys may get into their vaginas or anuses. Children should play in sight of adults.
- Store the toys out of reach of children.
- Prevent children from putting the toys in their mouths, noses, or ears.
- If the toys enter the body, seek medical attention.