Bipartisan bill aims to ban the sale of water beads as children’s toys

A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate aims to ban the sale of water beads marketed as children’s toys after reports of the product’s hazards raise alarms.

The bill is named “Esther’s Law” after 10-month-old Esther Jo Bethard died after swallowing one bead, which is absorbent and can grow inside the body.

Introduced by Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.) and Bob Casey (Penn.) and Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the bill looks to put a ban on water beads designed or marketed to children

The small, colorful balls can be sold as toys and in craft kits. The balls are made of superabsorbent polymers and can grow up to 100 times their original size when exposed to water.

While they can be used as sensory toys for children, warnings about kids ingesting the beads have piled up.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), from 2016 to 2022, there were an estimated 7,800 water bead injuries treated in emergency departments and at least one death.

Baldwin said parents buy the products as toys or educational materials thinking they’re safe, when sadly, “that is just not the case.”

“We need to do more to prevent kids from ingesting these dangerous products and give parents the confidence they deserve that the toys they buy are safe,” Baldwin said in a statement. “I am proud to introduce this legislation in Esther’s memory to ensure no parent has to go through the pain of losing their child because companies were allowed to market water beads as toys.”

Esther’s mother, Taylor Bethard, said families do not deserve to learn how to live life without their child because of a toy. She applauded the legislation and said “families deserve better.”

In December, top retailers like Target, Walmart and Amazon suspended the sale of water beads. EBay began including fliers to prevent its sellers from listing water beads as toys and Etsy has prohibited the sale of the beads entirely. The legislation looks to direct CPSC to ban the water beads, consider regulations on the colors of other similar products that pose an ingestion hazard to limit their attractiveness to children and require CPSC put warning labels on packaging.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.