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Call to Ban Water Bead Toys After Child Injuries and Death

A child playing with dangerous water beads

Legislators are calling for a nationwide ban on water beads – a product for young children that has caused thousands of injuries and at least one known fatality.

The products are small and colorful balls that absorb water and are usually marketed to young children. But Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey announced recently that he will introduce a bill at the House of Representatives aimed at passing a national ban on water beads due to the dangers they can pose to youngsters.

Why Water Beads Are So Dangerous

Water beads are tiny balls made up of extremely absorbent polymer material. However, when they are exposed to liquids, they could expand to 100 times their initial size and weight, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These beads are often marketed and sold as children’s toys that help teach counting and motor skills. They are sold by large nationwide retailers such as Walmart and Target as well as online by Amazon.

Congressman Pallone said that because water beads come in bright colors that are appealing to young children and look like candy, they are extremely dangerous. When they are swallowed by children, they can grow up to 1,500 times their original size inside the child’s body. According to reports, a number of incidents have seen children stick these beads into their ears or swallow them. Once the beads are inside the body, they continue to grow, causing blockages and life-threatening damage.

To add to complications, the beads may not be visible on X-rays. Even though the beads are labeled as “non-toxic,” concerns have been raised about the safety of the chemical acrylamide that is used to make these products. Experts say ingesting the beads can cause “severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration, intestinal blockages and life-threatening injuries.” They may have to be surgically removed.

Tragic Fatality and Injuries

According to the CPSC, there were about 7,800 emergency room visits between 2016 and 2022 as a result of children ingesting water beads. Pallone’s Ban Water Beads Act would direct the CPSC to enforce a ban on all water beads marketed for use by children. So far, one death has been reported – of Esther Bethard, a 10-month-old child who died July 7 after she ingested one of these beads. Her mother, Taylor Bethard, has been advocating the ban on these dangerous products.

Another child who was severely injured was 1-year-old Kennedy Mitchell, who ended up in the hospital after swallowing a bead from the same Chuckle & Road kit sold at Target that allegedly killed Esther. The bead blocked Kennedy’s intestine. Her mother, Folichia Mitchell, is also asking that the beads be banned. Chuckle & Road Ultimate Water Beads Activity kit was recalled after Esther’s death was reported to the CPSC. Pallone expects bipartisan support for his bill in Congress.

So far, the CPSC has announced a number of water bead kits from several manufacturers, including the most recent one in September, which involved 52,000 Chuckle & Roar kits. Ashley Haugen, another mom whose child was injured by water beads, founded The Water Bead Lady, a product injury non-profit and advocacy group. In 2017, her infant daughter was poisoned by water beads that stayed in her system for more than 70 days. The child needed emergency surgery to save her life. Haugen talks about how the design and quality of a product can make a vital difference when it comes to a “minor mishap and a major tragedy.”

Bath Beads Products Liability

Product liability refers to the legal responsibility of manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others involved in making products available to the public for any injuries or damages caused by those products. It specifically addresses situations where a product is defective or inherently unsafe, leading to harm or injury to consumers.

There are generally three types of defects that might lead to liability:

  • Design defects: These occur when there’s an inherent flaw in the product’s design, making it unsafe even before it’s manufactured. A design defect affects an entire line of products.
  • Manufacturing defects: These defects occur during the production or construction of the product. It might be an error in the assembly process or the use of substandard materials that make a particular product different from others in the same line and, therefore, more dangerous.
  • Marketing defects (Failure to warn): Even if a product is properly designed and manufactured, it might still be dangerous if consumers aren’t adequately warned about potential risks or if the product lacks clear instructions for safe use.

In order to establish a products liability claim, a plaintiff (injured party) needs to prove that:

  • The product was defective or unreasonably dangerous.
  • The defect caused an injury while the product was being used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable way.
  • The plaintiff suffered actual harm or damages due to the defect.

Companies can be held liable for damages resulting from a defective product through various legal theories, such as negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty. Manufacturers and other entities in the supply chain are expected to ensure their products are reasonably safe for their intended use and to warn consumers about any known risks associated with proper use. Failure to do so can result in legal action and liability for damages caused by their products.

If you have been injured or suffered harm due to a dangerous product, it is crucial to seek the counsel of an experienced product defect lawyer to better understand your rights and options for seeking compensation and protecting your rights. At Bisnar Chase, we have a national reputation when it comes to dangerous or defective product cases. Our team will fight to maximize the value of your case.


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California Personal Injury Blog