Target removes toy from shelf after 10-month-old hospitalized after swallowing water bead

Target has pulled a children’s toy from its shelves after a 10-month-old baby was hospitalized after swallowing the toy. Target has removed a toy by Chuckle & Roar that includes water beads. The small gel balls are often used in sensory kits, which are popular for children with autism.

Mom Folichia Mitchell told “Good Morning America” she bought a water beads activity kit for her 8-year-old son, who has autism. Shortly after, her younger daughter, Kennedy, began vomiting and became lethargic. At the hospital, doctors found she had swallowed one of the beads. 

The Berwick, Maine, mom said she bought the toy at a local Target in October. Since Kennedy was hospitalized on Nov. 1, she has undergone several surgeries to remove the bead and treat subsequent issues. Mitchell said she was told her daughter might not survive.

Since she was hospitalized on Nov. 1, Kennedy has undergone several surgeries to remove the bead and treat subsequent issues. Mitchell said she was told Kennedy might not survive.

Folichia Mitchell

Target has since decided to stop selling the toy. “We’re aware of this tragic situation and send our heartfelt sympathy to this child and her family,” a company spokesperson from Target told CBS News in a statement. “Target requires our vendors to comply with all product safety standards, and all state, federal and local laws. We have removed the product from stores and while we review the situation with the vendor.”

According to the National Poison Control Center, swallowing a water bead can cause life-threatening intestinal damage. The beads are made out of superabsorbent polymers most of which are synthetic and made from petroleum products, polyacrylate and other acrylics. Chemical reactions form polymers, which are large chains of molecules, allowing them to absorb large amounts of water without dissolving, which lets them expand.

The tiny, hard beads can grow up to 200 times their size when placed in water, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While the polymers in water beads are non-toxic, if a bead is swallowed, it can absorb fluid and expand in the intestinal tract, causing serious intestinal blockage. Poison Control recommends calling the center immediately if a child swallows a water bead.

Several children have required emergency care for swallowing the beads, including a 2-year-old girl who swallowed about 100 small water beads, which expanded to the size of marbles. The child passed the beads in the emergency room. Another child had swallowed a water-absorbing ball that could grow to the size of a racquetball. That child had surgery to remove it.

At least one child, a 6-month-old boy, died after swallowing a water bead that caused a bowel blockage, according to the Poison Control Center. That child underwent surgery for the intestinal obstruction and later developed an infection and died. Water beads are also a choking hazard, especially for children 3 years old or younger.

Brands like Orbeez, MarvelBeads and Elongdi use the beads, according to the Poison Control Center. Water beads can also be used by florists to keep arrangements hydrated and in decorating as well as in diapers, incontinence garments and menstrual pads.

CBS News has reached out to and is awaiting response from Chuckle & Roar, which made the toy with the water beads that Mitchell purchased. 

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