CCPC issues child safety warning about water beads

August 28, 2023

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has issued a warning to parents and caregivers 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.

Following their increase in popularity, particularly on social media platforms, the CCPC is warning that water beads present a serious risk for babies and toddlers in particular, and is advising that they are kept out of sight and reach of young children.

Risks to young children

Water beads are sold as tiny pellets which gradually expand when soaked in water. They are often used as sensory toys and more recently in pellet or water guns. They are small and colourful, making them attractive to toddlers and babies, who may instinctively put them in their mouths.

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.

Guidelines for parents and caregivers

Whilst water beads may appear harmless, it is important for parents and caregivers to take the following safety precautions.

  • Keep water beads away from young children
  • Supervise older children when they are using water beads, allowing them to play with water beads only after the beads have expanded
  • Ensure that the water beads are thoroughly cleared away after use, checking under furniture or other objects for any that may have rolled away
  • Dispose of water beads safely when no longer in use
  • Keep older and younger siblings’ toys separate; this can help prevent younger children from getting their hands on toys that are not age appropriate
  • Always check the recommended age range on toys. Most water beads are only recommended for children 5 years old and older

If you suspect that a child in your care has inhaled or swallowed a water bead, or has one lodged in their nose or ear, seek immediate medical help.

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