A water bead injury is any injury associated with the use of water bead products.
SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY! DO NOT WAIT AT HOME! … If you suspect a child has ingested water beads. Each case of water bead ingestion is unique and should be assessed by a medical professional. Water bead ingestion can be very dangerous as the beads expand from the water in our bodies. Since these accidents can happen so quickly, caregivers might not be aware that something is wrong.
Signs and symptoms your child has swallowed water beads include:
Additional symptoms we observed in Kipley:
Note: Ingestion is not the only risk water beads can pose to children…Your older child may also be harmed by water beads! Asphyxiation, accidental insertion into the nose or ear can occur, skin reactions, and exposure to an unknown and potentially hazardous level of acrylamide monomers. Remember that dosage matters! The data has shown in tested organisms that acrylamide is genotoxic, mutagenic, neurotoxic, a probable human carcinogen, and a reproductive toxin. The full long-term effects of hazardous acrylamide level exposure to children during sensitive periods of development are unknown!
Play is the occupation of childhood, and toys are the tools and materials of the trade. Aside from inevitable food exposure, children should be exposed to as little acrylamide from sources such as toys as possible.
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Water beads pose imaging and diagnostic challenges in a variety of ways including but not limited too...
People frequently ask me how Kipley could have ingested the beads given our family's carefulness. Not having witnessed Kipley actually swallow the water beads prevents us from answering some questions with exact certainty. What we do know is, unbeknownst to our family, the water beads collected inside of Kipley between April and July of 2017. It was only after emergency exploratory surgery that we discovered she had ingested any beads. Age restriction and parent observation are not an effective way to prevent water bead ingestion from occurring. Frequently, ingestion and insertion are not witnessed by caregivers due to a number of factors, including but not limited to: the speed at which ingestion, inhalation, and insertion can occur, the inability of children to effectively communicate when or if an incident has occurred, and the fact that hydrated water beads can hide easily in grass, carpet, under appliances, and when dehydrated they shrink to the size of a pinhead. A recent study found nearly half of the reported incidents occurred in school-aged children, 30% occurring while the children were at school. The following injury scenarios are based on stories shared with our family by parents and healthcare providers.
Alharbi, N., & Dabbour, M. (2020). Aspiration of superabsorbent polymer beads resulting in focal lung damage: a case report. BMC pediatrics, 20(1), 262. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-020-02168-9
Ashley and Kipley Haugen discovered water beads can be toxic after Kipley was severely injured and poisoned by water beads in 2017.
Throw them in the trash.
Direct skin contact should be minimized as much as possible when handling the water beads for disposal. The water beads should be sealed in a bag and then put into the outside trash bin so they are not visible to children or animals who may be tempted by them. Be careful when pouring water beads out of containers, they are known to bounce and travel long distances off of hard surfaces and hide under appliances or in carpet fibers making them difficult to locate for adults, but at the perfect eye level for children and pets to find.
Water that has come into contact with the water beads should be poured down the drain.
WARNING, do not allow any of the water beads to go down the drain. They can cause damage to the building by blocking the sewage pipes. A sturdy rag or drain catcher should be used to prevent water beads from accidentally going down the drain.
Water beads are known by many different names. They have caused rashes, nasal cavity injuries, hearing loss, lung damage, major intestinal surgeries, asphyxiation, seizures, brain injuries, infection, sepsis, and death. Water beads are banned in other countries due to their threat to children. Kipley's story is a warning I hope you heed. Water beads should not be used for play.
In April 2017, Kipley's parents purchased water beads as a birthday gift for their 6-year-old daughter, Abigail. Their 10-month-old, Kipley, was not allowed to play with the beads. Kipley's parents did not know she had swallowed any water beads; they took her to the hospital because they thought she had the stomach flu. Doctors gave Kipley test after test and tried different medications to stop her vomiting, but Kipley was still unable to keep anything down. No one could figure out what was wrong, so her quick-thinking team of doctors decided surgery was Kipley’s best chance at survival. In July 2017, Kipley was rushed into emergency exploratory surgery where the doctor found water bead material had formed a mass in her small intestine. Water beads are not like traditional foreign bodies, they do not always reliably and effectively travel down the digestive tract. Kipley's parents took her to the doctor twice between April and July (once for a follow-up and once for a check-up), they kept a close eye on her, and took every precaution while their older daughter played with the beads, no one suspected that the water beads were gradually collecting inside of Kipley.
Even though water beads are marketed as non-toxic, the term non-toxic is shockingly unregulated in the United States. Data for all clinically treated acute, sub-acute, and chronic injuries, as well as disease or fatalities in children associated with potential chemical exposure from interactions with toy products, are not systematically reported, analyzed, and quantified. Calls to Poison Control, reports to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and medical literature case studies are submitted voluntarily. Furthermore, the chemical composition of toys is often not readily available to consumers at the point of purchase and physicians at the point of care. The term "non toxic" is misleading. There is NO guarantee that a product labeled "non-toxic" is actually toxin free.
The polymerization process used to create water beads is never 100%. In occupational and laboratory settings, gloves and protective equipment must be worn to avoid repeated contact with residual neurotoxin acrylamide monomers when handling polyacrylamide. Even through polyacrylamide is considered non-toxic, the polymer must be treated with the same caution as the monomer acrylamide. Due to Kipley's exposure to acrylamide she suffered a brain injury, toxic brain encephalopathy.
Manufacturers and retailers are not required to disclose the residual amount of acrylamide in their water bead products. Even though the majority of toys sold in the United States are made in China, most American law firms will not pursue Chinese manufacturers. Online retailers are shielded from liability for injuries caused by products sold by third-parties on their platforms. Presently, U.S. consumers injured by a Chinese-made product and unable to sue a responsible party in the U.S. will not be compensated for their injuries. In this regard, the American legal system has failed to adequately protect American consumers. (Glynn, 2012)
Regardless of the child's age, Water beads should not be used as a toy.
Kipley’s Toxic Encephalopathy, brain injury, has impacted the trajectory of her life. Kipley started therapy a few months after her injury and continues to be in therapy now 6 years later.
The full effects of the difficulties she will face as she ages is something we will not know until she is an adult. Her peripheral and central nervous system were impacted by the poisoning. But Kipley's future is bright. She is persistent, compassionate, and bold.
We value Kipley’s privacy and do not want her deficits to be taken advantage of or used to bully her as she gets older. This is why we are selective in what we share about her. We balance respecting Kipley’s person-hood and autonomy while acknowledging the reality that clinicians and parents need information on how to manage water bead injuries and navigate life afterwards.
"Presently, U.S. consumers who have been injured by a Chinese-made products and are unable to bring suit against a responsible party in the United States will not be compensated for their injury. In this regard, the U.S.legal system has failed to provide adequate protection for U.S. consumers."
My advise to parents is to buy toy products from domestic brick and mortar retailers because legal statues allow for pursuing litigation form physical entities. The devastating fact is the only thing that differentiates our family, and countless others like us, from a family who can file a lawsuit and whose case lawyers, in most states, will take up is we purchased toy products from a major online retailer, Amazon. We appreciate the allure of online shopping, but the long-term consequences of financial effect and accountability if your child is harmed should make the inconvenience of shopping in person the safer option.
Due to inadequate protections for consumers online e-commerce platforms, unlike their brick-and-mortar counterparts, aren't always incentivized to seek out the same safety information that can protect their customers from harm.
Manufacturers and retailers are not required to disclose to consumers the residual amount of acrylamide in their polyacrylamide containing toy products. Major online retailers are in most states shielded from liability through section 230 even though their algorithms influence what products are promoted on their sites and fulfillment centers are often not classified as distribution centers or assemblers, so they are also protected from liability lawsuits.
For my family and many others, there is no one to sue, so we are forced to bear the physical, emotional, and financial weight of the tragedy on our own.
Everyone needs to understand that non-toxic equals an open question, not case closed. Without context the term non toxic is meaningless. The view that non-toxic equals safe needs to change for the health, safety, and well-being of children.
No! There is NO guarantee that a product labeled "non-toxic" is actually not toxic. When many people see a product labeled non-toxic, they assume that it has been tested and found free of toxic chemicals. They believe the product has a limited ability to cause harm. Many parents choose products labeled non-toxic under the assumption that they are making the smart, safe choice for their child. Most often the chemical content of toys is not readily available to consumers at the point of purchase, and physicians at point of care. Absent strict specifications about chemical content, there also may be batch to batch variation in chemical mixtures used for toys. Additionally, the chemicals used in toys may change rapidly in response to market forces, or may be protected as proprietary information. The chemicals used in toys made by smaller manufacturers, may be less well controlled and/or undocumented. Even if chemical content is consistent and recorded, toxicological information about chemicals used in toys may not be complete. Unfortunately, the belief that non-toxic equals safe causes unintentional harm. Parents, therapists, and even physicians would be surprised to know that the term non-toxic is shockingly unregulated.
The Federal Hazardous Substance Act give the Consumer Product Safety Commission authority to regulate or ban hazardous substances and toys or other articles intended for use by children, under certain circumstances to protect the public. Unfortunately the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines are written in confusing language. It is important for consumers and clinicians to know the term "non-toxic" is not defined by the regulation, the decision to characterize a product as non-toxic rests with the manufacturer. The Federal Hazardous Substance Act does not define the terms "non-toxic" or "non-hazardous"; manufactures are not required to preform toxicity tests; The FHSA does not require pre-market approval for products; the CPSC can not require any specific toxicity tests; and manufactures are not required to provide ingredients to the CPSC.
Just like water beads can obstruct, poison and kill children, they can do the same to dogs, cats, and other animals.
Many families have lost their pets to water beads.
Marketing campaigns are persuasive by design, and well-intentioned professionals can fall victim to marketing claims like anyone else. Many people have been duped into believing that the term "nontoxic" is tightly regulated. People do not perceive water beads as dangerous, and they have preconceived notions about what non-toxic means. This is why the water beads have been used pervasively in hospitals rehabilitation centers, therapy clinics, schools, and more.
Furthermore, most health care providers are not adequately trained to recognize environmentally-related risks or health problems in pregnant women, children, and adolescents. Children's Environmental Health is not standard in most medical and nursing school curricula, and medical and pediatric textbooks may only skim health topics and their relationship to environmental exposures. For this reason, the United States has 10 regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) and poison control centers.
Many people and healthcare professionals know about poison control centers, but have never heard of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs). Supported by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), PEHSUs are a national network of experts in the prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of health issues that arise from environmental exposures from preconception through adolescence. Your personal healthcare professional may be very interested in knowing that they can consult with environmental pediatric professionals at these units. Your interest in this topic may encourage more and more healthcare providers to become proficient in the topic.
Historically in the US, product recalls are mainly voluntary. Congress set up the CPSC in the 1970s to work with industry rather than regulate it. The CPSC is unfortunately understaffed and under-resourced. CPSC's 539 employees are tasked with managing trillions of dollars of products. There are not enough investigators to adequately protect consumers. There are flawed laws which prevent the CPSC from warning consumers about harm, section 6(b)acts as “gag rule” preventing disclosing risks to the public without the approval of manufacturers and section 15(b) is fraught with ambiguity.
This is the equivalent of arsonists telling the fire department when and if they can put out a burning building.
Online retailers use several techniques to escape accountability and regulatory oversight for injuries caused by their products. For example, after an injury occurs and sellers are notified, they often delete the original listing and repost the product under a different name. Sellers can also flood listings with fake positive reviews burying reviews that warn of danger. This type of behavior makes it more difficult for consumers, regulators, and researchers to see the complete picture of what harm a class of products is causing.
Currently, water beads are known around the world by different names, including but not limited too: hydrogels, PAM, super absorbent polymer balls, fairy orbs, dinosaur eggs, orbeez, marvel beads, rainbow balls, water balls, and dozens of other aliases. The precautionary principle is not consistently followed in the US. Nowadays, unless a manufacturer issues a voluntary recall, many deaths and severe injuries are often reported before a product is removed from the market. Some defective products can remain on the market for months, if not years
A recent study by Etayankara Muralidharan and colleagues found the time to recall defective products that caused severe hazards was greater for design-related recalls, and toy businesses that had previously issued recalls took longer to recall toys that posed more serious hazards than those with less serious concerns. For the toy industry, the conflict between public safety and business profits is particularly problematic.
CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. told InvestigateTV, “It should be terrifying to all of us, this agency(CPSC) is aware of I don’t know how many hundreds of products that the public should know about right now that we can’t say anything about.”
On social media, the water bead challenge/ orbeez challenge is associated with gel blasters, orbeez guns, water bead guns, and gel blasters. There is currently a misguided belief that guns are a harmless toy, however this idea is incorrect and dangerous. Currently, there is a misguided notion the guns are a harmless toy, but this assumption is inaccurate harmful. These guns have the ability to cause blunt ocular trauma with the potential for permanent sequelae which may necessitate surgical intervention and, depending on the injuries sustained, vision loss may be irreversible
The use of these gel blasters have played a role in the deaths of two individuals an 18 year old and an 8 year old. Additionally, according to news reports, teenagers around the country have been arrested for partaking in the orbeez challenge and inflicting injury to persons and property.
Mayors in New York and Kentucky have banned water bead guns due to the nuance and harm they have caused.
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