Amazon, Walmart and Target have announced that they will stop selling water bead toys marketed toward children because they can be deadly if swallowed.
Target confirmed that it will no longer sell water beads marketed toward children under 13 years old.
Amazon said it would no longer sell water beads if the product is marketed toward children, including products that are advertised as toys, art supplies or sensory play. This includes the popular Orbeez water beads, as well as ammunition for “gel blaster” toy guns.
Walmart also said it decided to “voluntarily stop selling expanding water bead toy and craft items marketed to young children.”
Earlier this year, Target recalled 52,000 Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits after a 10-month-old baby died and another child needed emergency surgery after swallowing a water bead.
“If a water bead is swallowed, the bead expands and can pose choking and intestinal obstruction hazards inside a small child’s body, resulting in severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration and a risk of death to the child,” according to a Safety Warning from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric.
The CPSC estimates that there were 7,800 emergency room visits between 2016 and 2022 for children who swallowed water beads.
Water beads are small, candy-colored toy balls made of a super absorbent polymer. They can expand over 100 times their original size when exposed to water.
If they are swallowed, water beads can expand inside the body and cause a life-threatening intestinal blockage. Water beads are invisible on an X-ray, so it can be hard to diagnose the problem unless a parent suspects that the child swallowed a water bead.
Water beads also scatter easily, making them easy to lose, and tempting to swallow because they are squishy and look like candy.
Last month, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey introduced legislation at the House of Representatives aimed at banning water beads if they are marketed toward children:
“They look and sound fun, but the reality is these colorful products can become deadly or cause serious injuries when swallowed by children,” he said.