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Amazon, Walmart and Target Stop Selling Water Beads Marketed Toward Children

Amazon, Target and Walmart have voluntarily stopped selling water beads marketed for children after government officials, lawmakers and public health professionals called for a ban on the toys.

Water beads are tiny balls made out of extremely absorbent polymer material. When exposed to liquid, they can expand to 100 times their initial size and weight, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Because they can grow inside the body once ingested, these toys pose immense health risks to young children, say experts.

And, because they’re mostly made up of water, typical X-rays often do not pick them up. In a safety alert in September, the CPSC reported that these beads “can cause severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration, intestinal blockages and life-threatening injuries” and may require surgery to remove.

They’re sold as popular children’s toys to promote counting or develop motor skills. But the water beads have drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and the CPSC.

Last month, US Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey introduced legislation aimed at instating a national ban on beads marketed to kids.

“They are specifically marketed to kids. In a single small package you can have 25, 50, or even 75 thousand of these beads and it just takes one to cause harm to a child,” Pallone said in a November news conference. “They are not labeled as dangerous to small children, there’s no warning, and they’re not hard to get.”

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the company updated its water bead policy on Tuesday. The e-retailer said it would remove listings for water beads if it refers to or includes images of children, or is described using toy, sensory play, arts or crafts.

“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,” a company spokesperson said. “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.”

In a statement Tuesday, Target also said it will no longer sell water beads marketed to children, in-store or online.

Walmart, in an email sent Tuesday, said protecting customers is its top priority.

“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,” a spokesperson in an email.

Consumer Reports first reported the voluntary bans on Amazon and Walmart.

In the same November news conference in which Pallone introduced the legislation, CPSC Chairman Alex Hoehn-Saric said, “It is far too easy for beads to be lost, dropped, and a short time later a baby or small child ends up finding them, picking them up and ingesting them.”

CPSC urges parents and caregivers to remove products from the proximity of small children.

Most recently, in September, Buffalo Games recalled “Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits” sold exclusively at Target after one infant death was reported.

Source : CNN