American companies have a long standing tradition of making dangerous toys that kill children. “Balloons account for 43% of the approximately 15 childhood deaths related to children’s products that are documented each year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” This year the extreme danger of water beads or “Orbeez” is setting off sirens and alarm bells ahead of this holiday season. Water beads are a very small bead that when water is added it makes a gel ball, they expand to 150-1500% their original size.
A new report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that in 2020, there were 9 deaths, and nearly 150,000 toy-related emergency room visits for children ages 14 and younger. Most of the injuries and deaths were associated with choking hazards, mostly because of small parts on toys.
Folichia Mitchell a mother in Maine wants everyone to know the danger posed by water bead “toys.” Mrs. Mitchell is demanding that new warning labels be added as her 9 month old daughter fights for her life after ingesting a bead. The mother says her daughter has had three surgeries due to the bead expanding and blocking her small intestine which caused infection and sepsis.
Mitchell says the sepsis caused the vessels in her daughters body to swell and cause water to leak into her body causing pressure to build up, this is putting undue pressure onto her heart, lungs and kidneys. Mitchell’s Dr. is quoted as saying “This is a hour by hour day by day situation.
Mitchell’s daughter swallowed a bead from the Ultimate Water Beads brand made by Chuckle and Roar, a manufacturer whose products are sold exclusively at Target.
History of Water Beads
Water beads were originally manufactured for farmers to keep moisture in their soil, soon they were adopted by florists to use in arrangements. There is also a consumer product which uses it to remove moisture in humid rooms of your house.
The toy industry began to market these dehydrated bead polymers to autistic children as sensory toys. Since their breakthrough into the children’s toy market they are now used as ammo in automatic toy pistols and machine guns. There was much alarm last year when teenagers were freezing water beads and doing drive-by-shootings in a viral TikTok challenge. There were a few teens who got real caps popped in there a$$ because they took the challenge.
Doctors Have Already Known
While with proper supervision and warning labels it might seem fine for an adult to purchase one of these products for an older child of 10+ however in several cases their younger siblings were the ones who ingested the dehydrated beads and paid the price. Doctors have been warning about the dangers of water beads expanding in children’s ears since 2016!
The tiny size of the initial beads, approximately 0.1 to 0.2 centimeters in diameter, allows them to fit easily inside the ear or nose of a child. If the bead is then exposed to water, such as during a bath or swimming, the bead can expand and physically damage the ear. In one such case, documented by the authors, a 9 year old girl’s middle ear and auditory nerve were damaged as a result of having an expanded bead stuck in her ear canal for 10 weeks.
Water Beads Are Toxic!
The website DISPLAY DON’T PLAY describes the horror lived by the Haugen family as their ten-month-old daughter Kipley ingested a polymer neurotoxin bead. The baby almost died and her GP doctor wasn’t much help as he had little experience or education with the situation. After the bead making the girl sick was discovered and was removed, Kipley started to recover then she got worse. Kipley was finally referred to a specialist who diagnosed her with Toxic Brain Encephalopathy caused by acrylamide monomer poisoning , expressive and receptive language delay, gait abnormality, muscle in coordination, muscle weakness, at risk for autism.
Water beads are made from Polyacrylamide which is considered non-toxic, it is created by polymerizing acrylamide, a potent neurotoxin. The polymerization process is never 100%, and residual acrylamide monomers exist as a contaminant in polyacrylamide. For this reason polymerized gels, especially with unknown initial and residual acrylamide content levels, should be treated with the same caution as the monomer. In occupational and research laboratory settings, safety guidelines require the use of protective equipment, like gloves, when handling polyacrylamide to avoid accidental repeated exposure to acrylamide monomers. Toxicology, environmental, and occupational medicine are often neglected components of medical school curriculums. This means most doctors lack detailed coursework and training in pediatric occupational and environmental medicine and toxicology.
I highly encourage you to read Kipley’s entire story here and learn about how you can spread awareness and help.
Unfortunately due to the water beads being manufactured in China litigation isn’t an option. Due to a recent change in distribution laws all the major companies who sell water beads and related products such as Wal-Mart or Amazon can’t be held liable.
It is up to you the parent or caregiver to know what toy can harm a child. Below are some of big business greatest hits from the past, toys which have hurt, killed and maimed.