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A Mukwonago mother's warning about a toy after her 10-month-old baby died

Posted at 3:51 PM, Sep 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 10:43:49-04

A Mukwonago mom is warning about a common toy... water beads.

One play kit with water beads has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission after her 10-month-old baby died. It is why Taylor Bethard now has a message for all parents.

Taylor Bethard holds the bunny her son bought for her daughter Esther's first birthday. Esther never made it to her birthday to open those gifts.

“She was just the brightest little light,” says Taylor as she smiles and holds a small pink bunny thinking about her daughter.

Taylor should have been planning her daughter Esther’s first birthday. She would have turned one on August 28. Instead, the family bought her gifts the little girl never got to open after her life was cut short this summer.

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Esther sits in the grass.

“You look at a picture of her smiling and you think, 'How can you not love that face?'” said Taylor.

On July 6th, the Bethard's family attorney, Daniel Mann with the law firm Feldman Shepherd says Esther became sick. The family had no idea Esther had swallowed water beads. Mann says she was found dead the next day. Mann says a toy that the family had bought caused her death.

"Esther definitely passed away from ingesting a water bead,” said Mann. “We know that water beads were found inside of her as well."

Early this month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the toy maker Buffalo Games, recalled The Chuckle and Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kit, the same one Esther’s family had in their home. According to the CPSC, the recall was due to serious “ingestion, choking and obstruction hazards.” The recall mentions the Wisconsin death and another baby, in Maine, who was seriously injured last year. It says when ingested, the beads can grow in size, which can cause an intestinal obstruction requiring surgery.

Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits that has been recalled by the CPSC and Buffalo Games.

The non-profit that advocates for product safety for children, Kids in Danger, says this recall should be a warning to all parents.

"So you know our advice. The advice of the recall is, you should never have water beads in your home if you have young children, or expect young children to be visiting,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger.

This is a water bead, it is a different brand, but this shows just how small they are. The water beads start as the size of a pin head or a tiny seed, and once water is added can grow to the size of a marble.

"Even just one of them in your home from any one of these sets can be a hazard. If a young child finds it, ingest, puts it in their ear, their nose, you know, even unfortunately, inhales it into their lungs, there's simply no way to keep them away from babies, toddlers, preschoolers,” said Cowles.

Taylor wear's Esther hair bow from when she was a newborn on her wrist and holds the bunny her older son bought for her daughter.

It's why Taylor's mission now is to get the word out about the dangers of water beads. She is joining other moms who say their children have been hurt by the toys.

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Taylor Bethard holds Esther in her arms as her older sister looks at her.

“Overall is to make sure no family has to endure what our family has endured,” said Taylor. “It adds meaning to something so senseless. Something that didn't have to happen.”

Taylor’s lawyer says they are planning to file a lawsuit.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says if you have the recalled Chuckle and Roar Activity Kit you should immediately stop using it. TMJ4 News reached out to the toy maker, Buffalo Games and it gave us this statement:

“Buffalo Games is devastated by the report of a 10-month-old infant fatality from ingestion of a water bead from the Ultimate Water Beads Kit. We offer the family our deepest condolences as they cope with this tragic loss.

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 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.

We have worked in cooperation with the CPSC on this issue and have decided to issue a voluntary recall.

Buffalo Games takes customer safety very seriously, and consumers should contact us via email, phone or through the website to return the Ultimate Water Beads to us for a full refund.”

The product was exclusively sold at Target. TMJ4 News also reached out to Target. Target spokesperson gave this statement:
“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.”

If you need to return the product for a refund, the information on how to do that ishere on the CPSC website.

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