Toddler gets blue lips after playing with McDonald's toy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am

A toddler who developed blue lips at his Sheung Shui home while playing with a McDonald's toy was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disorder triggered by an agent in the toy.

'He was playing with a Keroro stamp ink toy that his family had bought earlier. An initial investigation found that he has not touched any other stuff that might cause the disease and he only drinks milk or eats congee,' a spokesman for the Department of Health said.

The 12-month-old boy had stamped himself with ink from the Keroro Stamper at home on Saturday. Keroro is a popular green Japanese cartoon character.

The boy was admitted to Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital, and was discharged two days later.

'He was diagnosed as having methaemoglobinaemia - a blood disease in which the haemoglobin fails to carry the normal amount of oxygen throughout the body, leading to blueness due to a lack of oxygen,' said the spokesman, adding that other family members did not have any symptoms.

Head of the University of Hong Kong's bone marrow transplant centre, Raymond Liang Hin-suen, said methaemoglobinaemia could be triggered by chemicals.

'It is like suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Haemoglobin, which can transport oxygen throughout your body are converted into methaemoglobin, which cannot function as an oxygen carrier,' Professor Liang said.

He said that although the disease can easily be treated, it could be fatal if medical help was not sought immediately. 'We don't know if the chemicals contained in the stamp caused the boy's disease, but it is possible,' he said.

The Department of Health said it was investigating whether the ink in the stamp was the cause of the toddler's blue lips. Toys have been sent for laboratory testing.

McDonald's yesterday took the toy off its shelves immediately after learning the news from health officials. But it insisted the toy was safe and was recommended for children aged three and above, it said in a statement.

'Independent tests done on the ink in the stamps indicates that they do not posses any significant oral toxicity potential, significant skin irritation potential, significant eye irritation potential or significant sensitisation potential,' it said.

The health department has warned parents to strictly follow instructions about storing and using household products, toys and drugs in the home to prevent contact and ingestion of dangerous materials by their children.