Water beads have been around for several years. They were initially invented for florists to put in vases as filler material. The beads release water to feed plants slowly.
Toy executive Ron Brawer brought home a few water beads for his children to play with, thus starting a business selling water beads as toys, and Orbeez was born in 2010.
Several years later, the water beads were sold by numerous manufacturers after the selling rights were passed on, and the squishy toys are commonly found in stores and online.
However, the toys have done more harm than good.
In December 2023, Amazon, Target, and Walmart announced that their store policies would change to prevent the marketing, distribution, and selling of water beads designed for young children.
This announcement came after a long series of events of parents reporting their children’s life-threatening injuries after ingesting water beads, a nationwide recall, and one tragic death of a 10-month-old child.
“In the interest of safety, Amazon will no longer allow the sale of water beads that are marketed to children, including as toys, art supplies, or for sensory play,” an Amazon spokesperson said on removing water beads from the popular online shopping platform. The company requires its sellers to comply with the new policy by Dec. 22, 2023.
“At Target, our top priority is the safety of our guests,” Target spokesperson Emily Bisek said. “Given growing safety concerns, we will no longer sell water beads marketed to children ages 12 and under.”
Along with the large enterprise companies, online shopping platforms Etsy and AliExpress are also prohibiting water beads from being sold on their sites.
The dangers of water beads
According to the CPSC, water beads can be deadly if young children swallow them. Water beads look like candy with their bright colors and gel texture. These little toys are water-absorbing and can grow up to a hundred times their original size when exposed to fluids.
What makes water beads so dangerous is that if dehydrated, they shrink down to the size of a pinhead, making them nearly undetectable if dropped on the floor. If a small child finds a bead and swallows it, water beads can grow inside the body, causing severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration, intestinal blockages, and other life-threatening injuries. Surgery may be required to remove the water beads.
If water beads are inserted into the ears, they can damage ear structures, causing hearing loss.
The CPSC website stated: “CPSC has heard heartbreaking stories from parents whose children ingested water beads and suffered severe consequences, including grave internal injuries, lifelong health impacts, and death.”
The CPSC reports that these seemingly harmless toys have caused thousands of emergency room visits. Approximately 7,800 children were reported to need ER visits from 2016 to 2022.
“I wouldn’t have created this if I thought there was any chance anybody was going to get seriously hurt,” Brawer said after hearing about young children’s serious injuries and deaths being linked to water beads.
Parent stories lead to awareness, a recall, and pulling water beads from stores
In 2017, Ashley Haugen’s daughter Kipley was poisoned by water beads, causing her a traumatic brain injury. What started out as a rash around her mouth led to projectile vomiting and a hospital visit a month later. Immediate exploratory surgery revealed water beads lodged in Kipley’s small intestines.
Kipley recovered from a massive surgery. However, Kipley’s behavior changed dramatically afterward. She became uncoordinated and seemed to lose her speech. After extensive research, Ashley and her husband Jonathan discovered that the water beads were made of polyacrylamide, which can be toxic if safety guidelines are not followed to avoid exposure to acrylamide monomers, which are potent neurotoxins. Neurotoxins can cause significant delays in child development.
After meeting with early childhood intervention, a doctor confirmed a diagnosis for Kipley: Toxic Brain Encephalopathy, caused by acrylamide monomer poisoning.
In the wake of Kipley’s traumatic experience, her mother founded a nonprofit organization, That Water Bead Lady, in August 2022. Ashley’s goal is to advocate for families and protect future children by working towards a water bead ban.
Kipley’s story is one of many, many others. Elissa Byer emailed Buffalo Games to inform them that their water beads in the Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads activity kit nearly killed her 18-month-old son, James. Unbeknownst to his parents, James had inhaled a dehydrated water bead, which expanded in his airway. He ended up with a collapsed left lung.
In July 2023, 10-month-old Esther Jo died after ingesting the same water beads from the Chuckle & Roar Ultimate water beads activity kit. The Wisconsin family reached out to the manufacturer, Buffalo Games, informing them that their child died after ingesting their water beads. The manufacturer recalled their product in September 2023.
“If I had known of the risks, I would’ve never allowed my older kids to play with them. They would’ve never been in my house,” said Taylor Bethard, mother to Esther Jo.
Water Beads CPSC Advisory
The CPSC advises parents and caregivers to remove water beads from any environment with small children, avoid using these products entirely, and keep them away from children. Parents and caregivers are also advised to immediately throw away any water beads in their house.
The CPSC provided a list of safety tips on their website:
- Do not allow children to play with water beads unsupervised.
- Store water beads in a secure container and location where young children cannot easily access them.
- Water beads can easily scatter, roll, and become lost in the home and can be ingested in a dehydrated state. The only way to remove the hazard is to remove the toys from the home entirely.
Johnson//Becker attorneys take dangerous products designed for babies and young children seriously. The law firm has represented parents and families of children who have been seriously injured from defective products, as well as seeking justice for those who have tragically lost a child due to unreasonably dangerous products, especially products that violate the Safe Sleep for Babies Act.
Questions About a Water Beads Lawsuit? Contact a Johnson//Becker Lawyer for a Free Case Review.
If you or a loved one’s child has ingested water beads and was injured or tragically killed, you are not alone. Johnson//Becker lawyers are here to help. We are currently accepting new water beads lawsuits nationwide, and we would be honored to speak with you.
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