Skip to content

Water beads are often designed, intended, or marketed as a toy for children, but can pose deadly risks

Esther’s Law is named after a 10-month-old child who died after ingesting a water bead

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families, joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to introduce “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, who lost her life after she swallowed a stray water bead that an older sibling had played with months earlier. Harper Reese from Biglerville, Pennsylvania was hospitalized on her first birthday in 2023 after she swallowed two water beads that were purchased for an older sibling as a sensory toy. Reese is still recovering from severe symptoms as a result of water bead ingestion.

“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 (D-PA). “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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

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.

Senator Casey has a long record of fighting to protect children from dangerous and defective products. Casey fought for years to pass the STURDY Act, which prevents deadly furniture tip-overs by requiring furniture companies to ensure their products meet safety and stability requirements before being sold. The law was finally passed into law in 2022, and went into effect in the summer of 2023.

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; Walmart. 

You can read more about Esther’s Law here.