House of Representatives Introduces Ban Water Beads Act

By Paul Rosenlund and Steven Perelman

On November 21, 2023, Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL), Representative Brittany Pettersen (D-CO) and Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), introduced  the Ban Water Beads Act (H.R. 6468) to ban water beads marketed towards children. Water beads are super-absorbent polymer chemical spheres sometimes marketed as toys. This legislation would add water bead products to Section 8 of the existing Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) as a banned hazardous product. Therefore, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) would be directed to enforce a ban on all water beads marketed as a toy, educational material, or art material or art product.

The Ban Water Beads Act is in response to the potentially harmful effects of water beads in the human body. The CPSC’s online guidance illuminates the risks. Because water beads are made up of superabsorbent polymers, when in contact with water, they expand to several times their original size. Because of their ability to grow in size, water beads could become lodged in the digestive tracks, ears, noses, and lungs of a child. A Consumer Reports investigation estimated that between 2016 and 2022, water beads resulted in 7,800 emergency room visits, including, the death of a 10-month old girl.

Resulting from public concern regarding the harmful effects of water beads when consumed by children, many retailers have changed their policies towards the sale of water beads.

    • Amazon announced a policy that it will no longer allow the sale of water beads marketed to children.
    • Walmart, Michaels and other major retailers have prohibited the sale of all water bead toys and craft supplies marketed for children under certain ages.
    • Etsy has completely banned the sale of water beads.

In response to incremental pressure from the Consumer Product Safety Commission after their initial unwillingness to discontinue the sale of these items, Jo-Ann Stores, Hobby Lobby and Kohl’s discontinued the sale of water beads products.

However, most major retailers, besides Etsy, allow for the sale of water beads for non-children’s toy related purposes, such as water bead “ammunition” for water bead blasters, arts and crafts supplies for adults, and vase fillers for florists.

The Ban Water Beads Act is currently in the beginning stages of the legislative process as a bill introduced within the House of Representatives. The Ban Water Beads Act has yet to go through the long process of debate, review, and changes in both the House and Senate. Certain aspects of the proposed legislation invite clarification, including whether non-expanding water beads are or should be covered by the act, whether the act would ban squeeze toys or plush toys that securely contain water beads inside the toy, and how or under what circumstances might expanding water beads be lawfully sold into other markets.  Other amendments to the CPSA have typically taken around a year to pass, including the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021, which was introduced May 13, 2021 and became law May 16, 2022, and the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015, which was introduced January 8, 2015 and became law January 28, 2016. Therefore, one could expect that the Ban Water Beads Act would not become law until after November 2024.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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