Water bead makers sued after baby's death: 'A very dangerous product'

Lawmakers and regulators are working to ban water beads as toys for children following reports of serious injuries and a 10-month-old baby who died after swallowing them. 

Water beads are gel balls that come in packages of thousands. They’re known as a sensory toy because they have a certain feel and "kids love to squeeze them," Terry Turner, a writer at drugwatch.com, explained in an interview with LiveNow from FOX. 

"The problem is that they expand as much as 100 times their original size when they get wet, and if a kid puts that in their mouth and swallows it, if they put it in their nose … their ear, it’s going to cause some damage," Turner said. 

Water beads recalled after baby’s death

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that water beads sent some 7,800 people to emergency rooms in the U.S. between 2016 and 2022, Turner said. In July 2023, Buffalo Games received a report of a 10-month-old child dying after swallowing the recalled water beads in Wisconsin. A 9-month-old in Maine was also seriously injured and required surgery after swallowing the beads in November 2022.

RELATED: Water Bead toys recalled after one baby dies, another seriously injured

The CPSC recalled the Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kit sold by Buffalo Games following the child’s death. In October 2023, parents filed a class-action lawsuit against Orbeez, another water beads maker, claiming false advertising and fraudulent business practices. 


Recalled water beads activity kits (CPSC)

"It does look like candy … some of them are incredibly small," Turner said. 

When the baby died in July, "the family didn't even know these beads were still in the house," Turner said. 

"They bought them for an older daughter, about two years before I think, and they had not even seen the beads for months, but they'd gotten into the carpet," Turner said. "The baby found them, ate them, they expanded, they caused blockage, and she died. So there is a real serious risk with these. There's been a lot of regulatory action in the past several months to get these things out of the reach of kids legally."

In November 2023, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, introduced a bill in Congress that would ban water beads from being sold as toys, Turner said. 

Stores pull water beads from shelves

Amazon, Walmart and Target changed their policies on selling water beads following the recall and lawsuit. 

Target confirmed to FOX Business that the company will no longer sell water beads that are marketed to children under 13 years old both in-store and online.  

RELATED: Amazon, Walmart and Target to stop selling certain water beads

Amazon also updated its policy on water beads and will no longer sell the product if it is marketed to children, including as toys, art supplies or for sensory play. 


More packaging from recalled water beads kids activity kits (CPSC)

Similarly, Walmart told Consumer Reports that it will ban the sale of water bead toys and crafts that are marketed to children under 9 years old. This applies both in-store and online. 

"There was another case where a 19 year old, I believe it was … on a dare had ingested over 50 of these things and wound up in the emergency room," Turner said. "They had to use a device that went down his throat to pull them out one at a time. This is a very dangerous product if anyone puts them in their mouth."

FOX Business contributed to this report.