Sep 01, 2023

Consumer watchdog issues baby and toddler choking warning over absorbent water beads

Safety experts warned that toddlers and babies may instinctively put water beads in their mouths (CCPC/PA)

Product safety experts at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) have issued a warning to parents about water beads, a product used increasingly as a toy.

Water beads, which are also known as gel beads, sensory beads and by a number of trademarked names, are made of a “superabsorbent polymer and can retain hundreds of times their weight in water”, according to the CCPC.

Due to an increase in popularity of the product, particularly on social media platforms, the CCPC has said water beads present “a serious risk for babies and toddlers in particular” and is advising they are kept out of sight and reach of young children.

The product is sold as “tiny pellets” which gradually expand when soaked in water.

The CCPC said they are often used as sensory toys and more recently in pellet or water guns.

They are small and colourful, which the CCPC says makes them attractive to toddlers and babies, who may instinctively put them in their mouths.

The CCPC said: “Water beads are a choking hazard for young children.

“If swallowed, the beads can continue to expand, growing considerably larger than their original size and causing intestinal blockages requiring medical intervention.

“The beads also can become lodged in a child’s ears or nose.

“There have been a number of reported incidents around the world involving water beads, including blockages in ear canals and internal organs resulting in hearing loss and bowel obstruction.”

Parents are advised to keep water beads away from young children and supervise older children who are using the product – only allowing play when the beads have expanded.

Parents and caregivers are told to ensure that water beads are thoroughly cleared away and disposed of after use, checking under furniture or other objects for any that may have rolled away.

The statement said: “Always check the recommended age range on toys. Most water beads are only recommended for children five years old and older.”

If a child has inhaled or swallowed a water bead, or has one lodged in their nose or ear, a caregiver should seek immediate medical help.