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Latest Updates on Water Bead Lawsuits

Water beads — billed as a “sensory toy” — have caused harm to children since 2017, leading to lawsuits in 2024 against several manufacturers and a federal class action suit in California. Major retailers have stopped selling them, and a bill to ban water beads marketed to children was introduced in Congress.

Most Recent Water Bead Lawsuit Developments
  • January 2024:
    Amazon, Target, Walmart and several other major retailers had stopped selling water beads marketed to children amid safety concerns and pressure from regulators and advocacy groups​. Lawyers continued to accept and file lawsuits on behalf of parents whose children were injured by water beads.
  • November 2023:
    Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced a bill in Congress to ban water beads marketed to children in the U.S.
  • October 2023:
    Attorneys filed a federal class action lawsuit in central California for parents claiming Orbeez water beads engaged in false advertising and fraudulent conduct without warning of the toys’ dangers.
  • September 2023:
    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled Target's Chuckle and Roar Ultimate Water Bead Activity Kits.

What Are Water Beads?

Water beads are a seemingly innocuous toy that resembles candy. However, they pose a significant danger to infants and young children if ingested. When exposed to water, these small, water-absorbing balls composed of super-absorbent polymers can expand up to 100 times their original size. Because water beads can expand exponentially when exposed to bodily fluids, they can quickly obstruct a child’s digestive system.

Water Beads in a bowl

They are marketed under different brand names manufactured by several companies, including Orbeez and MarvelBeads.

“The risk, however, is not limited to a single product,” Consumer Product Safety Commission chairperson Alexander Hoehn-Saric said in September 2023. “All small children who have access to water beads are at risk. CPSC urges all families, schools, camps and child-care centers to keep water beads out of any spaces that babies and small children may enter.”

Packaged in the thousands, these “sensory” toys, meant for squeezing and squishing, come in various sizes, starting as tiny as a pinhead and growing to marble or even golf-ball dimensions.

Despite being promoted as non-toxic, water beads pose a significant danger if ingested. Children face risks of choking, internal injuries and even death if they swallow the beads or insert them into their noses or ears. The colorful beads can expand in size, emphasizing the need for heightened awareness about their potential dangers in homes and schools nationwide.

Why Are People Filing Water Bead Lawsuits?

Parents are filing personal injury lawsuits because their children required surgery, an emergency room visit or suffered other injuries caused by water beads.

Types of Injuries Claimed in Water Bead Lawsuits
  • Death
  • Blocked airway leading to lung collapse
  • Bowel obstruction requiring surgery
  • Hearing loss
  • Infection

If you decide to take legal action, a lawsuit could help you recover money for your child’s pain and suffering. It might also cover the cost of their medical bills.

Water Beads Linked To Serious Injuries and Deaths

Ingesting water beads has resulted in thousands of serious injuries and even death. The CPSC estimates the toys have been responsible for more than 7,800 emergency room visits between 2016 and 2022.

“All small children who have access to water beads are at risk.”
Alexander Hoehn-Saric Consumer Product Safety Commission

Ten-month-old Esther Jo Bethard died from water bead obstruction in July 2023. She had been playing with Chuckle and Roar water beads her parents purchased for an older child months before.

“Our sweet Esther Jo is gone all because of a toy — a toy she was never allowed to play with,” Esther Jo’s mother, Taylor Bethard, said. “Water beads are not worth the risk.”

X-ray of water beads in a stomach
An X-ray reveals the presence of water-absorbing beads in a child's intestines.

Though water beads are marketed as non-toxic, they have been blamed for at least one brain injury.

Thirteen-month-old Kipley Haugen ingested water beads in 2017 that required surgery to remove them. Kipley’s pediatrician diagnosed her with toxic encephalopathy — a type of brain injury — several years later, saying it was likely due to toxic chemicals in the beads.

“A toy is meant to bring joy, not tragedy,” said Ashley Haugen, Kipley’s mother and a consumer advocate now working to ban water beads. “The same water beads that devastated my family remain for sale, a silent threat in any home.”

Choking Hazard Allegations Against Orbeez

Orbeez packaging warns of choking hazards, but a California lawsuit alleges it fails to inform parents of more severe risks, leading them to believe choking is the only danger.
Water beads can be a choking hazard if ingested, especially for young children. They swell up when in contact with water and could block the airway.

It is often difficult for parents or caregivers to immediately recognize a child is choking due to the sudden nature of these incidents. Symptoms that a child may have swallowed water beads include coughing, gagging, drooling, difficulty swallowing, and changes in breathing patterns, such as faster or harder breathing or a consistent whistling sound during breathing.

Orbeez packaging warns of choking hazards, but a California lawsuit alleges it fails to inform parents of other severe child safety risks, leading them to believe choking is the only danger.

Signs of Water Bead Ingestion

Esther Jo’s parents never suspected she had swallowed water beads. The baby exhibited signs of a stomach bug the night before they found her lifeless.

Parents need to be aware of the symptoms of water bead ingestion.

Warning Signs Your Child Has Swallowed Water Beads
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Constipation
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

Because they can expand, water beads can also cause injuries if a child inserts them in their nose or ears. Water beads have been blamed for children’s permanent hearing loss.

Who Qualifies To File a Water Bead Lawsuit?

If your child has been seriously injured, required surgery, or passed away due to ingesting water beads or inserting them in their nose or ears, you may have a legal right to file a water bead lawsuit.

You may be entitled to compensation for the physical, financial, and emotional hardships caused by such injuries.

An experienced law firm specializing in product liability lawsuits can evaluate your case, aid you in gathering the necessary information and help you file a lawsuit.

Water Bead Settlements and Verdicts

No publicly announced settlements or major verdicts in water bead lawsuits have been announced. Litigation over water beads is in the relatively early stages.

Because of the large number of emergency room visits, reported child deaths and other injuries related to water beads, there is the potential for hundreds or even thousands of personal injury lawsuits. If that happens and the cases are similar enough to one another, they may be combined in one multidistrict litigation. This means they would be tried in a single federal court.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making decisions about your health or finances.
Last Modified: February 9, 2024

9 Cited Research Articles

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  1. Kirchner, L. (2024, January 8). Amazon, Target, and Walmart Announce They Will Stop Selling Water Beads Marketed for Children. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/babies-kids/toys/amazon-to-stop-selling-water-bead-toys-a2333261526/
  2. Kirchner, L. (2023, November 29). Orbeez Water Beads Don't Come With Adequate Warnings, Parents Allege. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/babies-kids/toys/orbeez-water-beads-lack-adequate-warnings-lawsuit-a1185822530/
  3. Gibson, K. (2023, November 13). Call for Nationwide Ban on Water Beads As Parents Recount ER Visits. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/product-recall-water-beads-ban-childrens-toys/
  4. Thompson, D. (2023, September 25). Water Beads Can Expand Inside Body, Causing Kids Serious Harm. Should They Be Banned? Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2023-09-25/water-beads-can-expand-inside-body-causing-kids-serious-harm-should-they-be-banned
  5. Kirchner, L. (2023, September 21). “Nobody Should Lose Their Child Over a Toy.” Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/babies-kids/toys/water-beads-pose-a-serious-safety-risk-to-children-a6431187819/
  6. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2023, September 14). Chair Hoehn-Saric Statement on the Dangers that Water Beads Pose to Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.cpsc.gov/About-CPSC/Chairman/Alexander-Hoehn-Saric/Statement/Chair-Hoehn-Saric-Statement-on-the-Dangers-that-Water-Beads-Pose-to-Young-Children
  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2023, September 14). Water Beads: Harmful if Swallowed, Put in Ears. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Water-Beads-Harmful.aspx
  8. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (n.d.). Water Beads. Retrieved from https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Water-Beads-Information-Center#
  9. Children’s Wisconsin. (n.d.). The Choking Hazard of Water Beads. Retrieved from https://childrenswi.org/newshub/stories/water-beads-danger