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"Esther's Law" would ban water beads nationwide amid major safety concerns for kids.

Casey to introduce legislation to ban water beads in Pennsylvania
Casey to introduce legislation to ban water beads in Pennsylvania 03:09

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Water beads are a popular toy, but time and time again they have endangered young children. Now a Pennsylvania senator is among those moving to ban selling the colorful, water-filled beads nationwide.

It's a move welcomed by the family of Harper Reese, who was left fighting for her life when she was just one year old.

When she first got sick, Harper's sickness and symptoms stumped doctors. 

"They thought she had gastroenteritis, was just really sick," her mother, Whitney Reese, said. 

For nearly two weeks, Harper got sicker and sicker with no answers. 

Diagnosing Harper

"She was continuing to throw up," Reese said. "She was not having a bowel movement. She was not keeping anything down. Her vomit was starting to look and smell like stool."

That's when Reese thought about an obstruction. But when repeat X-rays showed nothing, she remembered throwing out her older son's water beads months ago. 

"What if? What if she got her hands on one," she said. 

Doctors found two swollen water beads blocking Harper's intestines. 

The danger of water beads

Last year the Consumer Product Safety Commission warned that water beads can expand exponentially inside a child's body. CPSC estimates there have been 4,500 visits to hospital emergency rooms due to water beads since 2017.  

In December, major retailers including Amazon, Target and Walmart said they would stop selling the products.

Harper's recovery

"She had to go in then for her second surgery, where she ended up needing a small bowel resection because there was so much damage and inflammation to the area of the bowel where the water bead was," Harper's mom said. 

The healing process took time for Harper, but not every child heals. A growing community of parents on TikTok describe lifelong complications, even brain injuries. Reese is just one of the parents now pressuring lawmakers. 

New bill would ban water beads

On Thursday, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, along with Senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Susan Collis of Maine, introduced legislation to ban water beads across the country.  

"This is the one thing that has just proven time and time again that it doesn't matter how careful you are," Reese said. "It doesn't matter if you have full supervision, because I had full supervision the entire time. It was never played without supervision, but all it takes is one little, tiny one of those water beats to get out and then they dry up to where you'll never find them."

The new legislation is named after a little girl named Esther who, like Harper, swallowed a stray water bead that her older sibling had played with months earlier. Esther did not survive. Now, Esther's Law aims to protect children in the future. 

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