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New bill seeks to ban deadly water beads toys

Esther’s Law is named after 10-month-old Esther Jo Bethard, who died after swallowing a stray water bead belonging to an older sibling.
Water beads
Posted at 1:23 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 13:23:57-04

Lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban water beads in an effort to keep children safe.

The legislation — called Esther’s Law — is named after 10-month-old Esther Jo Bethard, who died after swallowing a stray water bead that an older sibling had played with months prior.

Water beads are small balls of gel that absorb water and are often used as sensory toys for kids. Their colorful looks and squishy appeal make them an ingestion hazard for young children who may want to put them in their mouths.

In one incident last year, Harper Reese from Biglerville, Pennsylvania, was hospitalized on her first birthday after she swallowed two water beads intended for an older sibling. She is still recovering from severe symptoms.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is leading the charge to pass Esther’s Law in conjunction with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

“Too many families have faced terrifying hours in the emergency room, worrying about whether their child will survive after swallowing a water bead, a product that is often marketed as a toy,” Casey said in a press release. “With thousands of children hospitalized in just the last few years, it is clear that this product has no place in the hands of children. This bill will keep kids out of the hospital and prevent more families from facing the nightmare of water bead ingestion.”

Water bead ingestion injuries made up nearly 7,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. between 2018 and 2022, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Water beads expand in water and could be harmful if swallowed, experts say.

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Companies that sell water beads, like Tuladuo, have continued to face recalls for their products. If passed, Esther’s Law will things a step further.

The law would require the CPSC to ban water beads products that are marketed to kids as toys, sensory tools, or educational or art materials. It would also ask the CPSC to reconsider the coloring of water beads in an effort to make them less attractive to children.

The legislation would direct the CPSC to put warning labels on packages of water beads sold for other purposes.

“No family should have to figure out how to explain the death of a child to their siblings, or how to have holidays and birthdays without them. Ever. But especially not because of a toy. Esther's Law will help ensure that other families do not have to endure the same senseless tragedy,” said Esther’s mother Taylor Bethard in a press release.

“Rather than holding Esther each day, I’m left holding onto her tiny shoes, a ring with her perfect curls, while fighting to give her a voice. A voice that shouts our children deserve better. Families deserve better. Thank you for hearing Esther’s voice," she said.

While some retailers have pulled water beads from their shelves, they are still being sold online at places like Amazon.