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Be Cautious of Cute but Potentially Dangerous Water Bead Toys

Water Bead Toys

Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has again alerted parents and children about the risks of water bead toys following a warning made by Health Canada last week.

Through a public advisory entitled “Water beads may pose life-threatening risks to young children” issued last February 16, Health Canada told parents and caregivers to keep water beads and products containing them out of children’s sight and reach.

Water beads are tiny polymer crystals that expand when soaked in water. Based on the market monitoring by the EcoWaste Coalition, water beads are sold for as cheap as P5 for a small packet that comes with no labeling information. Aside from toys, water beads can be found in some squishy or stress balls, or used as decorative fillers in jars and vases. Some are used for gardening as some plants can grow in water beads.

According to the Canadian health authorities, water beads may pose aspiration hazard, choking hazard and injury hazard to young children. “Water beads can be very harmful if swallowed or put in the ears or nose. If ingested, water beads can continue to grow inside the body leading to potentially life-threatening injuries, such as intestinal or bowel obstruction,” warned Health Canada.

Consumer Reports (formerly Consumers Union of the USA) said “the beads can contribute to hearing loss, infections, bowel obstructions that require the surgical removal of intestines, blocked airways that can lead to lung collapse, and even death.” Last December 2023, Consumer Reports listed water beads among the “five dangerous products parents should avoid to keep their kids safe.”

Water Bead Toys

Citing information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Health Canada reported at least 248 know water bead cases in the US from 2017-2022 involving 112 cases of ingestion, 100 ear canal insertion, 35 nasal cavity insertion and 1 involving eye injury.

Symptoms of water bead ingestion may include vomiting, abdominal or chest paint, abdominal swelling or soreness, constipation, lethargy, drooling, difficulty of breathing or swallowing, and loss of appetite.

Considering the health and safety concerns with water beads, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the country’s toy regulators to 1) issue a public health advisory, 2) stop the sale of unauthorized and unlabelled water bead toys, and 3) require warning labels for non-toy products containing water beads.

In June 2021, the EcoWaste Coalition through a letter requested the FDA to issue a public health warning against water beads, which are also known as bio gel, crystal balls, crystal soil, gel beads, hydro gel crystal, hydro orbs, jelly beads, polymer balls, polymer beads, sensory beads or water balls.




EcoWaste Coalition
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