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Key federal policymakers call for a ban on water beads in toys: Consumer Reports statement

CR joins U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric, and parent advocates in announcing legislation to ban water beads in toys and other kids’ products; new bill comes after Consumer Reports investigation into the alarming danger posed by water beads to children 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports today applauded the announcement of a new bill in Congress by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone that would establish a nationwide ban on water beads in toys and similar types of children’s products. As detailed in a recent CR investigation, water beads pose severe risks to children if swallowed, including internal injuries, long-term health issues, and even death. 

William Wallace, associate director of safety policy for Consumer Reports, said, “Water beads are a nightmare for parents: they look harmless and fun, but they can be deadly. A recent Consumer Reports investigation found that these small, super-absorbent gel balls can grow to dangerous sizes in the body if swallowed by a child. Yet companies are marketing them as safe, leading parents to unknowingly put their children at risk. Consumer Reports is proud to endorse Congressman Pallone’s bill because parents already have enough on their plate to worry about, and they should be able to trust that toys they might buy for their children are actually safe.”

The new bill by Rep. Pallone—the ranking member of the House committee with oversight of consumer product safety—is intended to speed up action by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect children from what the agency has called “a danger to young children” that “can be deadly.” At an event today in New Jersey, Rep. Pallone and CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric—together with CR and parent advocates whose children have been sickened or died after swallowing water beads—called passage of the legislation the best way to protect children nationwide in a timely manner. 

Consumer Reports’ September 2023 investigation exposed the lethal hazards associated with water beads, commonly marketed as toys and sensory aids for children. These colorful gel balls can easily be swallowed by children, but unlike other small objects, they can grow to many times their size once inside a child’s body. Water beads can also be challenging to clean up and completely remove from the home if spilled or dropped, as they scatter easily and can hide under furniture, in baseboards, or in carpets. A curious child can find a water bead and eat it, even months or years after someone has last played with it. Despite being banned in some countries, water beads remain widely available in the U.S. and are sold by dozens of manufacturers.

After the investigation was published, CR sent letters to major retailers and platforms to urge them to remove water beads from their stores, websites, and apps. CR also launched a petition urging the CPSC to ban or sharply limit the sale of water beads. Together with a similar petition by parent advocate Ashley Haugen—founder and president of That Water Bead Lady—over 100,000 signatures will be delivered to the CPSC this week, calling for strong, urgent action to keep kids safe.

In the meantime, CR has offered the following recommendations to consumers as they strive to keep their families safe:

  • Avoid having water beads in the home if children or cognitively impaired adults are ever present.
  • Use room temperature, digestible food, such as rice, beans, pasta, or peas, for sensory play. 
  • If water beads are already in the home and are subject to an open recall, put them in a tightly sealed container, in a secure location out of sight and out of reach, until you have returned them or otherwise completed the recall instructions. 
  • If water beads are in the home and are not subject to an open recall, throw them away immediately.

Watch today’s press conference held by Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), calling for a national ban on water beads marketed for kids. Consumer Reports, CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric, parent advocates, and a medical expert joined today’s press conference.


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