Water beads sold at Target recalled after infant’s death

Shopping baskets are stacked at a Chicago-area Target store.
Shopping baskets are stacked at a Chicago-area Target store. | Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

A water bead set exclusively sold at Target has been recalled after an infant died from consuming the beads.

Buffalo Games recalled approximately 52,000 of its Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits on Thursday due to the product posing as “ingestion, choking and intestinal obstruction hazards” inside a child’s body if consumed, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The set comes with “jumbo” and “regular” size water beads. It was last sold online and in Target stores in November 2022.

Consumers should contact Buffalo Games for a refund and instructions on how to return the product.

How do water beads work?

Water beads are superabsorbent polymers. When they are exposed to fluids, they absorb the liquid and can expand up to 150 to 1,500 times their original size, according to Poison.org.

The beads have been marketed as toys and have been used for sensory play.

Have children died or been hurt by water beads?

A 10-month-old in Wisconsin died in July 2023 after swallowing the recalled water beads. In November 2022, a 9-month-old infant underwent surgery to remove intestinal obstruction from ingesting the beads.

Taylor Bethard, the mother of infant who died, spoke with Fox News Digital in August and called for change after Esther Jo’s death.

“Water beads should be banned/recalled and no longer allowed to be marketed as a children’s toy,” she said. “At the minimum, water beads need to have the appropriate warnings about the life-threatening dangers, which is not limited to choking.”

Bethard says the water beads never would have been allowed in her house if she had been aware of the full dangers of the toy.

“We have been working with industry to improve the relevant standards for these products and are considering additional rulemaking options should they not do so in a timely manner. We strongly encourage parents and caregivers to report any incidents with this product to us at SaferProducts.gov,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission told Fox News Digital.

By bringing awareness to the dangers of water beads, Bethard helped get the product banned from schools in her children’s school district.

Are water beads safe for babies?

If a child or infant swallows a water bead, it can expand in their throat or intestines and cause “life-threatening” blockages, according to UC Davis Health.

Earlier this year, doctors removed a 1-inch water bead from the small intestine of a 14-month-old in Iowa, Good Morning America reported.

Upon finding out about the bead, Hannah Rief, the mother of the child, immediately remembered when one of her other children was playing with a water bead set two years prior — before her baby was even born — and spilled the beads.

“I let them dry out and then I vacuumed them, and I vacuumed them over and over and over ... and I really thought that I got all of them,” she told GMA. “But two years later, Letty is playing in there and she must have found one in the carpet and she swallowed it.”