Safety advocates are warning parents to avoid buying water bead toys this holiday season. Water beads are small colorful balls, often sold as sensory toys that children can run their hands through. Water beads also have a special power: they can grow in water and other liquids. But there are serious safety concerns after a 10-month-old child swallowed water beads last summer and died.
You can find water beads in many toy boxes, activity sets and craft products. There are many brands and approaches to products. Online ads even show children playing in backyard pools filled with water beads.
Ignore the ads. You don’t want to give your child water bead toys. Water beads are made out of super- absorbent polymers, a material first used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help store water for plants and crops in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Consumer Reports. Since then, manufacturers have continued to find new uses, such as in water bead toys, diapers and filler for floral center pieces.
If you are a young child, water beads just look like candy. When ingested, water beads can expand inside a child, posing a risk for choking, intestinal obstruction and death. Water beads can also cause serious ear injuries.
There is some good news. On November 13, a New Jersey congressman introduced The Ban Water Beads Act. If passed, this legislation would someday direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to enforce a ban on selling water beads as children’s toys.
Unfortunately, you can expect to see water beads on store shelves this year. Breakstone, White & Gluck and our attorneys have represented victims of unsafe and defective products in Massachusetts for more than 30 years. We share these safety tips to help you avoid buying a dangerous water bead toy:
Water Beads Can Grow 1,500 Times Their Original Size
Water beads are soft and gel-like, made of super-absorbent polymers. They start small, some the size of a sprinkle and others like marbles. What’s stunning is water beads can grow 1,500 times their original size, according to That Water Bead Lady. The organization supports legislation prohibiting water beads from being sold as toys.
How Many Children Have Been Injured By Water Beads?
Between 2016 and 2022, the CPSC estimates there were 7,800 emergency room visits nationwide as a result of children ingesting water beads.
In September, the CPSC and Buffalo Games of New York announced the 10-month-old child had died in Wisconsin in July 2023. They disclosed the child’s death as they announced the recall of 52,000 Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits due to ingestion, choking and obstruction hazards.
The $15 kit was sold at Target stores nationwide and online between March 2022 and November 2022. Prior to the recall, Buffalo Games had received another toy injury report involving a 9-month-old Maine child.
These are recent stories. However, doctors have been treating children for water bead toy injuries for years. In many cases, children swallow water beads. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also reported on children placing clear-covered water beads in their ears and suffering injuries. In two separate cases, doctors could not see water beads and treated children for ear infections with antibiotics and ear drops. Then the water beads expanded in the ear, requiring surgery. These children were age 5 and 7.
Toy Safety Tips for Holiday Shoppers
Ignore Age Recommendations When It Comes to Water Beads. You may find water bead toys with age recommendations, warning against use by children under 3. But water beads are simply unsafe for any household with children and pets.
Beware of Water Bead Toy Sales. With federal legislation proposed, some companies may try to unload unsafe water bead toys this year with heavy discounts. Never trust the photos on the box or online. Be vigilant about reading toy descriptions and checking inside boxes. Open and inspect all toys as they come into your home.
Free Legal Consultation With Our Boston Product Liability Attorneys
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck fights for victims of negligence and wrongdoing in Massachusetts. Our attorneys specialize in personal injury and product liability cases, with a track record of successful results for clients injured by defective products, including toys, fitness equipment, vehicles and household products.