Action News Investigation: Parents warn about the potential dangers of water beads

The beads were originally made for plants, but now they are increasingly being sold in different children's products.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Friday, December 23, 2022
Investigation: Parents warn about the potential dangers of water beads
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Water beads are sold by various companies under different names.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Parents are sounding the alarm about water beads, a popular product that they say can be harmful to children.

Water beads are sold by various companies under different names.

They can be smaller than a grain of rice before absorbing water. The beads were originally made for plants, but now they are increasingly being sold in different children's products.

At least one parent has sued the maker and distributor of one of the products. The lawsuit says some children are ingesting them, and the beads are blocking airways and organs.

One-year-old Kennedy Mitchell accidentally swallowed a bead last month. Her mother, Folichia, shared photos of Kennedy in the hospital. She said the bead blocked her intestine.

"She was limp and she was blank," said Mitchell.

Mitchell told the Action News Investigative Team she bought the water beads in August for her 8-year-old son. How her 1-year-old got a hold of one is unclear.

"She literally swallowed just one bead," she said.

Mitchell said initially doctors were befuddled. Kennedy began throwing up bile and was rushed to a trauma center, where doctors finally figured out the source of the problem.

"Never ever came into my mind until that moment," she said. "And it felt like I was being punched right in the face."

Attorney Tom Bosworth and the Mitchell family have sued Buffalo Games, its parent company, and retailer Target for what they call insufficient warnings on the Chuckle and Roar water bead product.

"This product is essentially a ticking time bomb," said Bosworth. "I'm learning about more kids every single day."

Bosworth said currently water bead labeling only says they're a choking hazard, and not for children under 3.

Bosworth said what is missing from the label is they can expand inside the body.

"There is no warning about a blockage of the intestine, no warning of death," he said.

Bosworth said similar products were recalled nearly a decade ago.

Ashley Haugen also told the Action News Investigative Team her infant daughter almost died in 2017 after ingesting a similar product.

She has since founded the website, That Water Bead Lady, which warns of the potential dangers.

"The doctor was like, you know, these could kill kids," she said.

Haugen said she met with the Consumer Product Safety Commission last week to talk about the potential dangers.

"My hope is they take them off the market," she added.

Target has since pulled the Chuckle and Roar water bead product Mitchell purchased off its shelves but we found you can still purchase similar products online.

Mitchell said Kennedy is back home and is expected to recover.

"So I hope parents won't buy them because they are dangerous and they're not marketed for how dangerous they are," she said.

Buffalo Games, which markets the water beads purchased by Mitchell, tells ABC News its product meets current standards for toy safety. The company is evaluating the situation to see if any further action is warranted.

TARGET STATEMENT:

We are treating this situation very seriously and send our heartfelt sympathy to these families. Safety is Target's top priority, and we require our vendors to comply with all product safety standards, as well as all state, federal and local laws. We have removed this product from stores and Target.com while we address these concerns with the vendor.

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