The mother of a child who died from ingesting a water bead from a children's toy kit is speaking out after the company that manufactured the product issued a recall of the kits last week.
Taylor Bethard's daughter Esther died earlier this summer after ingesting a water bead. Her death prompted a recall of the water bead kits, which are manufactured by Buffalo Games under the brand name Chuckle & Roar.
Esther was only 10 months old at the time of her death on July 7. Bethard, a mom of five, told Philadelphia ABC station WPVI on Wednesday that although she and her family are still grieving, she wanted to speak out about her child's story "to ensure that no other family has to experience what [they] experienced" and warn other parents and caregivers about the dangers of water beads.
"It's a miserable, miserable feeling to lose your child. No parent should ever have to go through that. And if we can just save a few kids by sharing, then it's worth it for us to share," Bethard said.
Water beads are small in size but designed to grow in water. When ingested, they can increase in size by 150-1500 times after exposure to water or fluids, according to the National Capital Poison Center, and cause serious and even life-threatening hazards such as choking and intestinal blockage, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Bethard told WPVI anchor and reporter Nydia Han that she had purchased a water bead activity kit for her oldest child before Esther was born. The family's lawyer Dan Mann, an attorney with the Philadelphia law firm Feldman Shepherd, confirmed to WPVI that the bead Esther swallowed was from a Chuckle & Roar activity kit that had been sold exclusively at Target.
"They weren't purchased for Esther. Esther never played with them ever and yet this happened. Because [the water beads] bounce. They roll. They hide. They're tiny. I mean, they're like, as small as a seed," Bethard said.
The mom of five said she was happy to hear that the CPSC and toy company Buffalo Games had announced a recall last week of roughly 52,000 Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits due to "ingestion, choking and intestinal obstruction hazards," but said this step wasn't enough to protect other kids and families who may purchase other similar products from different toy manufacturers.
"We're super thankful that they've recalled this Chuckle & Roar [water bead] kit, but that's not the only water bead kit on the market. There are so many others and they're just as dangerous, and we have to be just as careful and we have to be warned as parents that there is a product that can cause such great harm to our kids," Bethard said.
According to a CPSC release, Buffalo Games fielded one report of a 10-month-old child's death after swallowing the water beads this summer. The company also received a report of a 9-month-old who was seriously injured last November after swallowing the water beads and needed surgery to remove them.
The release asked consumers to discontinue using the water beads, take them away from children and contact Buffalo Games for a refund, and included instructions on returning the recalled product by mail or at any Target store.
The product was sold exclusively by Target, in store and online, from March 2022 to November 2022 for close to $15.
In a statement to ABC News, Target said it pulled Buffalo Games' water beads kits from store shelves last year.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the families affected by these tragic incidents. We no longer sell this product, removing it from stores and online in November of 2022. Guests who purchased this product should immediately return it and contact Target for a full refund," the retailer said.
Buffalo Games shared a statement about the recall news with ABC News and expressed its "deepest condolences" to the late 10-month-old's family.
"Before selling the Ultimate Water Beads Kit, as we do with every product, Buffalo Games followed CPSC regulations and had the product tested to Children's Product Safety standards by an independent CPSC approved lab," the company also said. "The product passed the tests dictated by the standards, including the ASTM standards for expanding materials. The product is graded for Ages 4+, and carries a choking hazard warning on package."
"Buffalo Games takes customer safety very seriously, and consumers should contact us via email, phone or through the chuckleandroar.com website to return the Ultimate Water Beads to us for a full refund," the company added.
In June, another mother told "Good Morning America" about her 14-month-old having to have a one-inch water bead removed from her small intestine after swallowing one.
In November 2022, the mother of a then 10-month-old who required multiple surgeries and experienced critical complications after swallowing a water bead, opened up to "GMA" about the experience. Folichia Mitchell said she had bought a water beads activity kit for her older child, then 8, but said if there had been a warning label advising against the product for younger children, she may not have bought the kit in the first place.
"I do think if they had been labeled properly, and said, 'If ingested, could cause death, could cause blockage, seek medical attention,' any of those warnings, then I may not have even bought them for my 8-year-old," she said. "Bringing something into your home and purchasing it from the store, you have the right to know what to expect or what the dangers or cautions are of anything, and I didn't get that opportunity."
Also in November of 2022, the CPSC tweeted a warning to keep toys with small parts, "Especially, toys like water beads," away from children.
"If ingested, water beads can expand, block intestines, and cause life threatening injuries," the tweet read. The recall release listed similar hazards.
The National Poison Control Center also describes water beads as dangerous if swallowed.
WPVI's Heather Grubola contributed to this report.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Taylor Bethard's interview.