October 4, 2023

Water Beads Recalled in Canada For Life-Threatening Risk

Water Beads are being recalled by Health Canada because they can pose a life-threatening risk. The beads, which are called jelly beads, crystal soil, hydro orbs, orb beads, or sensory beads, are water-absorbing gel beads that can grow up to 1,500 times their size when placed in water. If swallowed, they can grow inside the body and can cause life-threatening injuries such as  intestinal or bowel obstruction. A specific manufacturer was not named in the recall notice.

Water Beads Recalled in Canada For Life-Threatening Risk

There have been several international incidents when children who ate the beads sustained life-threatening injuries and required surgery. In the U.S. there have been at least 248 known water bead cases reported to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from January 1, 2017 to November 22, 2022.

Of those 248 reports, 112 of the cases happened when the beads were swallowed, 100 were ear canal insertion, 35 were nasal cavity insertion, and one was an eye injury. From June 20, 2011 to January 31, 2023, Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Program received six reports about these beads. Three reports were of an injury, one severe.

These beads are brightly colored and young children may mistake them for candy. The beads are small, slippery, and bouncy, so they may roll away and not be noticed by adults. In several incidents, children found beads that were overlooked during clean up. Several children had access to them in school or daycare settings.

If you think your child has ingested a water bead, call the Canadian Poison Centre hot line at 1-844-POISON-X. Quebec residents should call 1-800-463-5060. Monitor your child for symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal or chest pain, abdominal swelling or soreness, constipation, lethargy, difficulty breathing, and loss of appetite. The beads may not show up on an x-ray, so healthcare providers should be alert to the possibility of bead ingestion when a patient presents with any  of those symptoms.

These water beads should always be stored in a container out of sight and reach of children. Any caregivers of children under the age of five should not have water beads in their house or classroom, even if intended for adult use.

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