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Warning Out on Dangerous Water Bead Toys

Water Bead Toys

15 May 2023, Quezon City. The non-profit EcoWaste Coalition urged parents and child carers to keep water absorbing-plastic beads out of children’s sight and reach as these toys may pose multiple hazards.

The watchdog group issued the reminder following the publication of a public advisory by Health Canada warning against water beads, which may pose aspiration, choking and injury hazards and which may require surgical intervention.

“We urge our parents and child carers to pay attention to this important safety advisory on water beads, which are often sold cheaply in retail stores adjacent to public schools without the required market authorization, labels, usage instructions and precautionary warnings,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

”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.

From June 20, 2011, to January 31, 2023, Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Program received six reports related to water beads. Three of the reports involved an injury, one of which was severe.

In the United States, there have been at least 248 known water bead cases as reported to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from January 1, 2017 to November 22, 2022. Of the 248 NEISS incident reports related to water beads: 112 were involved in ingestion, 100 involved ear canal insertion, 35 involved nasal cavity insertion and 1 involved eye injury, reported Health Canada.

Toy Safety

It will be recalled that the EcoWaste Coalition in June 2021 wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a public health warning against “water beads,” which are also known as “jelly beads,” “gel beads,” “water balls,” “crystal balls,” “bio gel,” “hydro gel crystal,” “polymer balls” or “polymer beads.”

“In the interest of preventing potential harm to a child’s health by swallowing water beads or by putting them into the nose or ears, we request the FDA to issue the necessary advisory on this matter,” the group wrote.

These tiny polymer beads come in different colors. When placed in water, the candy-like beads soften and can expand up to 200 to 1,500 times their original size. These beads are often sold as decorative items for vases, and also as a developmental toy to enhance a child’s sensory and motor skills.

Aside from Canada and the USA, product safety regulators in Australia have issued a similar warning. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, for instance, warned ”consumers of the dangers of water expanding balls after several children ingested them in Australia and required hospital treatment to have them removed.”

Also, European countries such as Cyprus, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, have withdrawn expandable toys from the market to prevent risk of choking or injuries among small children.

Governments warned that ”contact with saliva or stomach liquids will cause the figurine to expand, which can result in occlusion of the respiratory tract or intestinal blockage.”

The EcoWaste Coalition has again requested the FDA to issue a public health warning on water beads to protect Filipino children from these dangerous toys.


Water beads may pose life-threatening risks to young children

ACCC warns of dangers of water expanding balls to kids

Safety Gate: the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products (search for ”expandable toys”)

EcoWaste Coalition
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