Amazon, Target, Walmart to stop selling water beads

(NEW YORK) — Amazon, Target and Walmart, three of the largest retailers in the U.S., have announced they will stop selling water beads amid growing pressure in recent years to remove the products following reports of injuries and deaths of children who have swallowed them or placed them in their noses or ears.

Although water beads — often marketed as sensory toys and toys for children with developmental disorders — may appear to be harmless at first glance, the small balls, made of polymers, can be hazardous. When exposed to liquids, they can “expand to the size of a tennis ball,” about 150 to 1,500 times their original size, according to the National Capital Poison Center.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to ABC News’ Good Morning America that they have updated their water beads policy for third-party sellers and are committed to checking store listings for water bead products.

“In the interest of safety, Amazon will no longer allow the sale of water beads that are marketed to children, including as toys, art supplies or for sensory play,” the statement read. “We work hard to ensure the products offered in our store are safe, and we have teams dedicated to developing and updating our policies, evaluating listings, and continuously monitoring our store to prevent unsafe and noncompliant products from being listed.”

Target, which previously sold a Buffalo Games children’s water bead kit that was recalled in September, also said it would halt the sale of water beads in stores and online for kids 12 and under.

“At Target, our top priority is the safety of our guests. Given growing safety concerns, we will no longer sell water beads marketed to children.” a Target spokesperson told Good Morning America.

Walmart also said it would remove water beads from store shelves and its website.

“The safety of our customers will always be a top priority,” a Walmart spokesperson told GMA. “We decided to voluntarily stop selling expanding water bead toy and craft items marketed to young children and have already taken steps to remove them from our stores and online.”

For years, some parents have been warning about the dangers of water beads, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission has published reports of water bead injuries in babies and children.

In September, Wisconsin mother Taylor Bethard spoke to Philadelphia ABC affiliate station WPVI-TV about her 10-month-old daughter Esther’s death following the ingestion of a water bead. Bethard said she wanted “to ensure that no other family has to experience what [they] experienced.”

“It’s a miserable, miserable feeling to lose your child. No parent should ever have to go through that. And if we can just save a few kids by sharing, then it’s worth it for us to share,” Bethard said.

About 52,000 of Buffalo Games’ Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits, a water bead toy, were recalled in September and at the time, the toy company told ABC News they take “customer safety very seriously.”

“Before selling the Ultimate Water Beads Kit, as we do with every product, Buffalo Games followed CPSC regulations and had the product tested to Children’s Product Safety standards by an independent CPSC approved lab,” the Buffalo, New York-based company said in a statement. “The product passed the tests dictated by the standards, including the ASTM standards for expanding materials. The product is graded for Ages 4+, and carries a choking hazard warning on package.”

“Buffalo Games takes customer safety very seriously, and consumers should contact us via email, phone or through the chuckleandroar.com website to return the Ultimate Water Beads to us for a full refund,” the company added.

Concerned parents should remove any water beads their children might have. In the case of an emergency, parents can also call the National Poison Help Line, available 24 hours a day at 800-222-1222. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also encourages parents to report any water bead injuries or dangerous product experiences to them at SaferProducts.gov.

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