Autism Speaks Endorses Bill to Ban the Sale of Water Beads Marketed as Toys

April 10, 2024

Autism Speaks strongly supports the Ban Water Beads Act (H.R.6468) recently introduced by Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that would ban the sale of water beads marketed as toys. These toys are frequently marketed as benign, sensory-friendly products for autistic children but actually pose a significant risk to the health of not only autistic children, but potentially young siblings as well.

“After learning of the severe harm that has occurred to so many children as a result of ingesting water beads, we have joined family advocates and groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics in calling for a ban of the sale of water beads marketed as toys,” said Dr. Andy Shih, Chief Science Officer for Autism Speaks. “With many safe, sensory-friendly alternatives available, we urge families to remove water beads from their homes and discourage their use at schools, therapy centers, and any other place children may interact with them. We are grateful to Rep. Pallone for his leadership on this legislation and urge its swift consideration in Congress.”

For autistic children and their siblings, water beads pose a clear and present danger. Water beads are designed to expand many times their size when exposed to water. When ingested, water beads can grow and expand inside the body leading to severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration, intestinal blockages and life-threatening injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that there have been approximately 7,800 emergency room visits in the U.S. due to water bead ingestions between 2016 and 2022 and tragically, at least one death of a 10-month-old baby in 2023.

In endorsing this bill, Autism Speaks joins organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Reports in calling for Congress to pass this legislation. Autism Speaks is particularly grateful to advocates like Ashley Haugen, Taylor Bethard, and Folichia Mitchell – parents of children harmed by water bead ingestion, who have been at the forefront of the efforts to raise awareness and prevent future harm to other children.

While this legislation works its way through Congress, we ask families and communities to take caution by removing water beads from child-friendly environments so as to avoid a crisis situation. In considering alternatives, we also advise parents and guardians to ensure that toys are age-appropriate and toys that present choking hazards are kept out of reach of small children.

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