The Danger of Hydrogel Water Beads

Water beads, also known as hydrogel beads or aqua beads, are a very popular trend for continuous watering of cut flowers or potted plants. They are used as an alternative for regular plant earth or hydroculture/hydroponic.

They are also very trendy as a children’s toy for parties and for sensory play experiments. 

Water beads are non-toxic but they can still be dangerous. These beads are polymer balls and act as superabsorbers. These are substances that are able to absorb many times their own weight in liquids, especially water or aqueous solutions, and form a hydrogel. 

What makes them dangerous for children is that if they are swallowed, the balls can lead to internal injuries and even death because they may expand (internally) in the child’s digestive tract (gut). Even though they might be non-toxic, when expanding in the bowel, they can cause a blockage which may, in the worst case require surgical removal (and have even caused death). There have been reports of waterbeds having expanded to the size of a golf ball and larger. 

The Medical Journal of Australia reported that these beads can swell to 400 times their original size when placed in water and hence present a “unique foreign body challenge”. 

And even if they are non-toxic, they are not edible and pose a choking hazard to young children. 

The New South Wales Poisons Information Centre in Australia has issued a very clear warning: PLEASE KEEP ALL WATER EXPANDING ITEMS OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND DO NOT USE AS A TOY OR SENSORY AID. And that includes those that are marketed as sensory learning tools for children on the autism spectrum.

Photo credit Can Stock Photo / koca77

Posted on April 28, 2020 by

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