Expanding Water Bead Products Put Children at Risk of Life-Threatening Health Risks, CPSC Warns

Warning comes after officials recalled two water bead toys sold on Amazon.com, due to high levels of a toxic, cancer-causing chemical.

Federal safety regulators are raising renewed concerns about serious risks associated with water bead-type products, which expand and grow in water, but can pose both a choking hazard and a cancer risk to children.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a water beads safety warning last month, as part of National Poison Prevention Week. The warning urges consumers to stop using the toys due to the risks they pose to young children.

According to the CPSC, nearly 7,000 children were treated for water bead injuries in emergency rooms in the U.S. from 2018 to 2022, with many of the serious injuries occurring when children swallowed them. The toys were also linked to the death of a 10-month-old girl in 2023.

In addition, some brands may also pose a toxic risk, exposing children to high levels of acrylamide, a cancer-causing chemical, according to the warning.

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Water Bead Ingestion Concerns

Water beads are sold as sensory toys for children and are sometimes used for agricultural purposes. They are small, water-absorbing, colorful balls made from a super-absorbent polymer. However, the beads can grow to more than 100 times their original size when exposed to water.

Because they can continue to grow when children ingest the beads, the product can expand once inside the intestines and stomach. This can result in intestinal blockages, abdominal pain and discomfort, vomiting, dehydration, and life-threatening injuries, the CPSC indicates. If inserted in the ear, they can cause hearing loss or damage to the ear structure.

Some children require surgery to have them removed, thus adding additional health risks from the procedures themselves.

Due to the serious health risks posed by the products, the CPSC has issued a number of water bead toy recalls in recent years, impacted a variety of products that were found to cause serious problems if swallowed by children.

Toxic Water Bead Recalls

Adding to the ingestion risks of water bead products, the CPSC is now warning that some brands contain acrylamide at levels that violate the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

Acrylamide is a known cancer-causing agent, but it can also affect the nervous system and lead to muscle weakness, numbness in the hands and feet, and unsteadiness, the CPSC warns.

On the same day as the warning, the CPSC announced recalls for Jungostor large water beads and Tuladuo water bead sets, indicating that the products contained high levels of acrylamide. Both sets were sold online through Amazon.com.

The Jungostor water beads were sold from March 2017 through November 2023 for about $10. The Tuladuo water bead sets were sold from March 2021 through November 2023 for between $10 and $20.

The commission urges consumers to throw the water beads away, as neither manufacturer, both based in China, has agreed to recall the products.

In addition the CPSC also recommended those using water bead products to:

  • Remove water beads from any environment where young children may be present.
  • Store water beads in a secure container and location where young children cannot easily access them.
  • Do not allow children to play with water beads unsupervised.

In case of an emergency, consumers should call the National Poison Help Line at 800-222-1222, available 24 hours a day.


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