Death of infant prompts recall of water beads toy sold at Target

The Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits were sold at Target. On Your Side’s Susan Campbell has what to watch out for.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 10:10 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) A popular children’s toy has been recalled following the death of an infant. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a 10-month-old in Wisconsin died in July after swallowing beads from the Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kit. And in 2022, a nine-month-old needed surgery after a water bead caused an intestinal obstruction. More than 50,000 of the recalled water bead kits were sold at Target from March to November 2022 for $15.

Dr. Rahul Chawla, a pediatric critical care physician with Banner Children’s, says water beads can cause devastating injuries and death. “These are made of polymers. These are actually things that were actually designed for agriculture so they could hold onto water in dry environments and soil for farming techniques. So this tiny small bead, it might be the size of a pea, it can actually expand sometimes to the size of a tennis ball,” he said. “If it’s stuck in the top of your throat and blocks off your airway, unless you can get a definitive airway in, it’s like drowning on land. Four minutes without oxygen, you have brain damage. If it gets all the way in and gets ingested and gets stuck somewhere in your GI tract, we might have to go in and do an exploratory surgery to look and then pull it out.”

Warning signs that a child may have ingested a water bead include coughing, gagging, drooling, trouble swallowing, problems with breathing, whistling noises while breathing, wheezing, vomiting and complaining of pain. “Most parents know when something isn’t right with their kid, and this is not something that can be blown off,” Dr. Chawla said.

According to CPSC, consumers can contact Buffalo Games for a full refund and instructions on how to return the recalled toy in a prepaid mailing package. Consumers can also return the product to any Target store.

“Today’s recall is a flashing red light about the risks of water beads, and it should tell every parent, caregiver, and teacher out there to be very careful about these products. Get them out of sight and out of reach,” said William Wallace, the associate director of safety policy for Consumer Reports. “These water bead activity kits are being recalled primarily because they’re tied to an infant death. That’s our read of the situation. It sure looks like other water beads pose similar hazards, so we’re very concerned with any product that’s similar to these, and there seem to be a lot of them for sale.”

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