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A mom from Berwick, Maine, is warning others to beware of a popular product after her infant accidentally swallowed a water bead — leading to nearly a month in the hospital and the need for five surgeries.

Little Kennedy Mitchell, just 10 months old, swallowed the Chuckle & Roar-brand water bead some time in late October, according to her mother, Folichia Mitchell. 

Water beads were initially used as “agricultural products intended to maintain soil moisture,” according to Poison.org, a website that tracks hazardous products. 

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Florists also use them to keep floral arrangement hydrated; the beads are also used as fluid absorbers in products like diapers.

Water beads are also “marketed as children’s toys or therapies for children with sensory processing or autism spectrum disorders,” the website notes.

Small beads greatly expand once they get wet. "I want parents and clinicians to know the term ‘non-toxic’ is shockingly unregulated. Water beads can be toxic," said Ashley Haugen, a Texas-based mother who runs the That Water Bead Lady website.

Small beads greatly expand once they get wet. “I want parents and clinicians to know the term ‘non-toxic’ is shockingly unregulated. Water beads can be toxic,” said Ashley Haugen, a Texas-based mother who runs the That Water Bead Lady website.
(iStock)

Here’s what happened to little Kennedy.

‘Serious medical danger’

The bead that young Kennedy swallowed swelled inside her intestine, creating a blockage, her mother shared in a Nov. 3 video on TikTok. Mitchell begged followers to pray or send “healing energy to her ailing child,” who was suffering from a “serious medical danger.”

Mitchell purchased the Chuckle & Roar-brand water beads from Target as a toy for her nine-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum, she said in her TikTok video. 

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But the beads swell to many times their original size when they get wet, she said.

Fox News Digital reached out to Chuckle & Roar on two separate occasions for comment. 

Target says that it has since pulled the item from its shelves. 

“We’re aware of this tragic situation and send our heartfelt sympathy to this child and her family,” Target said in a statement provided to Fox News Digital. 

“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 Target.com while we review the situation with the vendor.”

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Other water bead brands, however, are still for sale at Target and are marketed for children, Mitchell said on another of her TikTok videos — and a Dec. 14 search of the Target website revealed that Orbeez brand water beads are available for purchase there.

Kennedy Mitchell, pictured here, still has a long road ahead of her but is a "resilient" baby, her mother said. 

Kennedy Mitchell, pictured here, still has a long road ahead of her but is a “resilient” baby, her mother said. 
(Folichia Mitchell)

In subsequent TikTok videos, Mitchell explained that she and her husband never saw Kennedy near the water beads and do not know how she managed to swallow one. 

They suspect she found one on the floor after her brother inadvertently dropped it.

Kennedy underwent numerous surgeries to help fix her digestive system and battled various infections while in the hospital, Mitchell said.

‘Tip of the iceberg’ 

Ashley Haugen, a San Antonio, Texas-based mother of two girls and owner of That Water Bead Lady website, empathizes with Mitchell’s story. 

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Haugen’s own daughter, Kipley, age six, was seriously injured after she accidentally ingested a water bead in 2017.

Even though the beads were labeled “non-toxic,” Kipley experienced permanent damage, Haugen told Fox News Digital in an email. 

Folichia Mitchell and her daughter, Kennedy. The baby recently spent a month in the hospital after she swallowed a water bead.

Folichia Mitchell and her daughter, Kennedy. The baby recently spent a month in the hospital after she swallowed a water bead.
(Folichia Mitchell)

“This incident changed the trajectory of her life and left her with a brain injury called toxic brain encephalopathy,” said Haugen. 

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“I want parents and clinicians to know the term ‘non-toxic’ is shockingly unregulated,” she continued. “Water beads can be toxic.” 

“The risks they pose to children of all ages, pets and the environment at large outweigh any perceived benefit they provide as a ‘sensory toy.’” 

One of Haugen’s followers saw Mitchell’s TikToks about little Kennedy’s plight, she said — and the two connected. 

Haugen also was able to provide Kennedy’s doctors with information about water bead ingestion, she said.

An image of the swollen water bead that doctors removed from little Kennedy's intestines. 

An image of the swollen water bead that doctors removed from little Kennedy’s intestines. 
(Folichia Mitchell)

Kennedy’s is one of “dozens upon dozens” of stories that Haugen has come across in which children suffered harm from water beads, she said, calling Kennedy and Kipley’s stories “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“It happens so quickly that it is nearly impossible to prevent.” 

“Water beads should not be marketed to children,” Haugen said.

“The risks they pose to children of all ages, pets and the environment at large outweigh any perceived benefit they provide as a ‘sensory toy.’” 

If water beads must stay on the market, then Haugen believes they should be sold as decor products with “clear warnings of the ingestion, insertion and aspiration risks that water beads pose.” 

Folichia Williams and Kennedy pictured here, as well as water beads. Cases like Kennedy's and Kipley's are "just the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to water bead hazards, said Ashley Haugen of That Water Bead Lady.

Folichia Williams and Kennedy pictured here, as well as water beads. Cases like Kennedy’s and Kipley’s are “just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to water bead hazards, said Ashley Haugen of That Water Bead Lady.
(Folichia Mitchell)

Haugen also warned that parental or caregiver supervision is not enough. “It happens so quickly that it is nearly impossible to prevent.” 

“Normally thousands of water beads are sold in a package. They can shrink down to the size of a pinhead and easily roll under appliances or furniture.”

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She added, “I’ve spoken with families whose older children played with water beads outside, and whose toddler then required emergency surgery weeks later to remove a water bead that the parents were unaware their toddler had access to.”

Haugen said she would not have purchased water beads had she been fully informed of the risks they posed to children. 

Kipley Haugen pictured here. Though the beads are labeled "non-toxic," Kipley experienced permanent damage, mom Ashley Haugen said.

Kipley Haugen pictured here. Though the beads are labeled “non-toxic,” Kipley experienced permanent damage, mom Ashley Haugen said.
(Ashley Haugen)

And while Kipley still has challenges associated with her injury, Haugen said her daughter is “a force to be reckoned with.”

“She has the biggest heart and the kindest spirit,” she said. “Our entire family adores her. Kipley loves to dance, draw, go to the park and advocate for water bead safety.”

Long road ahead for baby Kennedy

Kennedy was released from the hospital at the end of November but still has a feeding tube, her mother said.

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“She’s recovering and she’s strong,” said Mitchell. 

Pictured here are Kennedy and her father, David. Kennedy is a "very resilient and strong baby, and sweet and silly despite what she's gone through," said her mother.

Pictured here are Kennedy and her father, David. Kennedy is a “very resilient and strong baby, and sweet and silly despite what she’s gone through,” said her mother.
(Folichia Mitchell)

“She has trauma related to drinking fluids, most likely from feeling sick,” she said.

“The blockage was the last thing she remembers before being under for a few weeks, but we are working with a few different specialists to help her transition back to a sippy cup,” she added.

Her daughter is a “very resilient and strong baby, and sweet and silly despite what she has gone through,” she also said.

“I have raised this matter with our chairman and agency career staff and hope the commission will act swiftly to ensure safety.”

“She’s happy to be home,” she said. “We are all so happy to have her home.”  

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is planning to hold a teleconference on Dec. 16 with representatives from That Water Bead Lady, including Haugen, to discuss water bead hazards, the CPSC website notes.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is meeting on Dec. 16 about water bead safety, according to its website. Peter Feldman of that agency says he hopes "the commission will act swiftly to ensure safety."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is meeting on Dec. 16 about water bead safety, according to its website. Peter Feldman of that agency says he hopes “the commission will act swiftly to ensure safety.”
(iStock)

“I am aware of hazards associated with these products, not just choking hazards, but also acrylamide poisoning,” Peter Feldman, a CPSC commissioner, told Fox News Digital in an emailed statement this week. (Acrylamide is a chemical used to create water beads, per Thatwaterbeadlady.com.)

“As a five-member commission,” he continued, “most agency actions require majority support, particularly in serious matters like this.”

“Some [water beads] can become the size of a tennis ball and cause a bowel obstruction. This can be life-threatening.”

He added, “I have raised this matter with our chairman and agency career staff and hope the commission will act swiftly to ensure safety.”

Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician of over 30 years who is based in Minnesota, told Fox News Digital, “Water beads may be lovely to look at, but they are dangerous to swallow. Young kids are tempted to swallow water beads because many are colorful and look like candy. The danger is, however, that once the beads get to the stomach, they begin to swell — often to 1,500 times their size!”

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She added, “As they move beyond the stomach and into the lower digestive tract, they take on more water — causing them to swell even more. Some can become the size of a tennis ball and cause a bowel obstruction. This can be life-threatening because the obstruction keeps food from moving through it and it backs up.”

She also said, “Then, the bowel can twist or tear. If it tears, the child must be operated on immediately.”

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Dr. Meeker said, “If you suspect that your child may have swallowed a water bead, call your doctor. Watch for symptoms of decreased appetite, intense stomach pain or vomiting. Bowel obstruction in children is very painful. If you see any of these signs, go to your doctor’s office or an emergency room immediately.”

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Finally, she noted, “Kids can also choke on water beads. When this happens, the child may begin to gag (if the bead hasn’t gotten too far down) or he may develop a sudden cough. If the bead stays in the lung for a couple of days, your child will have a cough that worsens and even develop pneumonia.”


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