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Water beads can expand inside stomach, causing harm to children

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 30 JAN 24 09:59 ET

By Rachel Polansky

Click here for updates on this story

    ATLANTA, Georgia (WANF) — Water beads are often sold as toys, in craft kits, or as sensory tools for children with developmental disabilities.

But the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission said children who have swallowed water beads can suffer suffer severe consequences, including internal injuries, lifelong health impacts and death.

Some of the cases of children ingesting water beads in metro Atlanta have required medical attention at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

Water beads are small, water-absorbing, often colorful balls of super absorbent polymer and can grow 100X their original size when exposed to water.

“When a child swallows a water bead, unfortunately, that water bead can start to expand in the stomach or the intestine and can cause a blockage and make children quite sick,” CHOA emergency department physician Dr. Maneesha Agarwal told Atlanta News First Investigates.

Dr. Agarwal said parents of small children should keep water beads out of the home.

“You don’t need them for sensory play or for gardening or for the other reasons people might have them,” Dr. Agarwal said. “There are a lot of workarounds. Most of the cases that I have heard of involved an older child having access to water beads for fun but there being a younger sibling in the home, where it’s just not safe for them to be around water beads at all.”

The Georgia Poison Center has seen a steady rise in calls related to water bead ingestion, over the last five years.

In 2019, the center received 16 calls related to water bead ingestion. In 2021, that number jumped to 52; in 2023, it received 85 calls related to water bead ingestion.

InvestigateTV talked with one mother about why she wants to ban water beads and her push to raise awareness, after her daughter swallowed some of the items.

The commission last year tested water beads and found “concerning levels of acrylamide,” said Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. “I would not take any statement of nontoxic on water beads at face value.”

The National Cancer Institute said that acrylamide is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.

But countless products marketed for and to children claim to be nontoxic, a label consumer advocates said is meaningless.

“The label ‘nontoxic’ isn’t regulated by anyone – EPA, FDA, CPSC, so it doesn’t necessarily mean a product meets a specific requirement or doesn’t contain hazardous materials,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a Chicago-based nonprofit that pushes for safety in children’s products.

Consumers have filed complaints with the CPSC about products that claimed to be nontoxic that caused injuries.

Dr. Agarwal said if your child does swallow a water bead, don’t panic. Make sure they’re okay and breathing and call the Georgia Poison Center at 800-222-1222. If your child is having trouble breathing, go to your nearest emergency room.

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Water beads

Embargo: Atlanta, GA; **This image is for use with this specific article only** Water beads are often sold as toys. But the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission said children who have swallowed water beads can suffer suffer severe consequences, including internal injuries, lifelong health impacts and death.

WANF

30 Jan 24

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