Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

Consumer Reports: Amazon, Walmart, Target, Michaels and Other Companies Will Stop the Sale of Water Beads for Children

Amazon, Walmart, Target, Michaels, Etsy, and Alibaba stop the sale and marketing of water beads for children following pressure from a CR investigation, parents, safety advocates, and policymakers

WASHINGTON, DC — Consumer Reports (CR) commends Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Michaels for their decision to voluntarily stop selling water beads marketed for children following mounting pressure from a recently published Consumer Reports investigation, safety advocates, parents—including That Water Bead Lady president Ashley Haugen—and policymakers. Water beads—tiny, superabsorbent, and super-expanding toys—can cause severe health issues like intestinal obstruction if swallowed, lung damage if inhaled, or hearing loss if put in the ear, and can be fatal for infants. Following our investigation, CR reached out to retailers and online platforms, alerting them to the dangers of water beads and urging them to remove the product from their stores, websites, and apps.

In a CR exclusive, Amazon said it will stop the sale of expanding water beads on its platform that are described as toys, or that are marketed for children or for “sensory play,” by the end of 2023. Amazon states its new water beads policy here. Walmart said it will prohibit the sale of all water bead toys and craft supplies that are marketed for children under the age of nine, both in stores and online. AliExpress (Alibaba) and Etsy also recently banned water beads from their sites entirely following CR’s investigation. 

Following the publication of CR’s story, Target told CR that they have decided to no longer sell water beads marketed to children ages 12 and under. Michaels also told CR that they will no longer allow the sale of water beads that are marketed to children. CR is urging SHEIN, Wish, and all other companies to stop the sale of water beads for children. 

“We commend the companies that are taking action to protect children from the dangers of water beads, and urge them to enforce their policies diligently. These steps will help keep kids safe,” says William Wallace, CR’s associate director of safety policy. “At the same time, some of these policies are stronger than others, and some companies haven’t taken any action at all. It remains vital for policymakers to get clear, binding rules in place across the marketplace that will protect families from harm and ensure a level playing field for industry.”

While CR applauds companies for voluntarily ending the sale and marketing of water beads to young children, these dangerous beads can still end up in the hands and mouths of children anywhere water beads are present. Even with close adult supervision and thorough cleanup, these little beads can still get lost around the house, and babies can find them. Consumer Reports continues to call on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Congress to move as quickly as possible to ensure greater protection for American families against the dangers of water beads, including through enactment of the Ban Water Beads Act by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.). 

In addition to causing severe injuries to children, new CPSC research and CR tests found hazardous chemicals, including acrylamide and BPA, in the popular children’s toys. Acrylamide is a known carcinogen that also can be toxic to the nervous system, reproductive system, and brain. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor that has been linked to certain cancers and fertility issues. Learn more about the CPSC and CR’s tests for hazardous chemicals in water beads here

“Water beads can be deadly if swallowed, but that’s not the only way they can harm children,” added Wallace. “The risk of toxic exposures is yet another reason why Congress and the CPSC should ban water beads, and why retailers and online platforms should immediately stop selling them.”


Media Contact: Emily Akpan, emily.akpan@consumer.org