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Senators Baldwin, Casey, Collins Introduce ‘Esther’s Law’ to Ban Deadly Water Beads and Protect Kids

Bill named for 10-month-old Esther Jo Bethard of North Prairie, WI, who passed away after swallowing a stray water bead

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced ‘Esther’s Law,’ bipartisan legislation to ban the sale of water beads designed, intended, or marketed as a toy, educational material, art material or sensory tool for children. The bill is named after 10-month-old Esther Jo Bethard of North Prairie, Wisconsin who lost her life after she swallowed a stray water bead that an older sibling had played with months earlier.

“Parents buy toys and educational materials for their kids with the understanding those products are safe for their children. Sadly, with water beads that is just not the case. We need to do more to prevent kids from ingesting these dangerous products and give parents the confidence they deserve that the toys they buy are safe,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to introduce this legislation in Esther’s memory to ensure no parent has to go through the pain of losing their child because companies were allowed to market water beads as toys.”

"No family should have to figure out how to explain the death of a child to their siblings, or how to have holidays and birthdays without them. Ever. But especially not because of a toy. Esther's Law will help ensure that other families do not have to endure the same senseless tragedy,” said Taylor Bethard, Esther’s Mom. “Rather than holding Esther each day, I’m left holding onto her tiny shoes, a ring with her perfect curls, while fighting to give her a voice. A voice that shouts our children deserve better. Families deserve better. Thank you for hearing Esther’s voice."

“Too many families have faced terrifying hours in the emergency room, worrying about whether their child will survive after swallowing a water bead, a product that is often marketed as a toy,” said Senator Casey. “With thousands of children hospitalized in just the last few years, it is clear that this product has no place in the hands of children. This bill will keep kids out of the hospital and prevent more families from facing the nightmare of water bead ingestion.”

“The problems associated with water beads were brought to my attention by the mother of a baby girl from Berwick, Maine, who was hospitalized at 9 months old with a life-threatening obstruction after accidentally consuming a single water bead,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill will keep children safe by establishing common sense guidelines for labelling these potentially dangerous toys that have led to more than 7,800 emergency room admissions since 2016.”

Water beads are small spheres made of super-absorbent polymer that can grow up to 100 times their size – some to nearly the size of a golf ball – when exposed to liquids, making them deadly if they are accidentally ingested by kids and pets. These beads can look like sprinkles or candy and can easily get lost in carpets or other areas where they might later be found and ingested. Once swallowed, water beads swell and can cause poisoning, intestinal blockages, or other medical emergencies – with tragic results.

Esther’s Law will protect children and pets by limiting children’s access to water beads. Specifically, it would:

  • Direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to establish a ban on water beads products marketed to children as toys, educational materials, sensory tools, or art materials;
  • Direct CPSC to consider regulations on the colors of other water beads that pose an ingestion hazard to limit their attractiveness to children; and
  • Direct CPSC to require warning labels on packages of water beads that are used for other purposes.

Esther’s Law is supported by parent advocates through That Water Bead Lady; Amazon; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Association of People with Disabilities; Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN); Autism Society of America; Autism Speaks; Center for Pet Safety; Children’s Hospital Association; Consumer Federation of America; Consumer Reports; Early Care & Education Consortium; Etsy; Kids in Danger (KID); Michaels; National Center for Health Research; National Health Law Project; National Retail Federation; North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN); Public Citizen; Public Interest Research Group (PIRG); Reese’s Purpose; Safe Infant Sleep; Safe Kids Worldwide; Target; and Walmart. A full list of supporters is available here.

A one-pager on this legislation is available here. Full text of this legislation is available here.