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Warning: Water beads are dangerous and are not toys

Large expanding water beadsSmall polymer balls that absorb water and expand to be the size of a golf ball pose a serious safety hazard to children and should not be used as toys.

Several Australian children have ingested water-absorbing balls (also known as water beads) and have required hospital treatment to have them removed.

The products are small and colourful and can be attractive to young children, who naturally place items in their mouths at early stages of their development.

Once ingested, just one ball can expand inside a child’s body and cause intestinal obstruction, vomiting, severe discomfort and dehydration and may need to be surgically removed.

We understand the balls don’t show up on x-rays which can make diagnosis complicated.

While the balls are commonly used in decorative items such as vases and centrepieces, they have recently been marketed as sensory learning toys for children.

The ACCC is urging businesses who are supplying these products as toys to stop immediately. We will work with industry to address safety concerns.

Parents and carers should also take the following actions to avoid accidents:

  • Stop using expanding water balls as toys or playthings immediately.
  • Keep expanding water balls out of reach of children – make sure these products are well out of sight and out of reach of children.
  • Keep any items, including decorative pieces like vases that contain expanding water balls well out of reach of children.
  • If you suspect a child has swallowed these water balls, you should seek medical attention immediately.

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3 comments so far -

  1. Hi just wondering if any testing was done on these so called dangerous waterbeads?
    your photo shows 2 different types 1 potentially dangerous and 1 totally harmless according to testing done in the US by
    The small ones will grow to about 7mm in a stomach environment. They need near pure water to grow full size, drop one in vinegar as a simple test.
    Dean Wallace

    • I totally agree with Dean. There are sizes ranging from 1mm to 10mm in dry state which grow to different sizes. The 1-1.5mm grow to about 11mm fully expanded in ideal situations; basically the size of a pea.

      I only import the small beads and instant snow because of the safety risk of the larger ones. It would be great if when doing these safety articles, which I support 100%, that the full information is provided. My products I import and wholesale are small enough to be passed if ingested.

      For the unaware, the same product is used in disposable nappies, albeit in granulated form.

      • Hi Paul. Thanks for clearing that up. We received this article from the ACCC and we agree that it is important information. They have stated at the start that they’re specifically worried about those that expand to the size of golf balls but as Dean mentioned also, the image is not correct and show those that are much smaller. I have now changed the image to show only the larger ones. Thanks.



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