A new toy comprised of gel balls and marketed as “Water Balz” among other names is the subject of warnings from medical professionals after they say small children are swallowing the gel balls and experiencing intestinal blockages as the tiny objects absorb moisture and expand.
The popular gel balls are advertised as growing “from the size of a pea to the size of a racquetball right before your eyes,” a feature that is causing obvious problems with toddlers enticed to swallow the brightly-colored orbs. Doctors are reporting instances of children swallowing gel balls going unnoticed until the child develops symptoms of an internal blockage, a problem that can be serious by the time it becomes symptomatic.
Water Balz and other gel balls are not the first product to come under fire with doctors due to swallowing concerns in recent months, as Buckyballs — the magnetic building balls marketed to adults in office settings — have also caused internal injuries to toddlers after being ingested. (That product was the subject of controversial CPSC action, the first of its kind in over a decade, prohibiting sales of Buckyballs.)
Like Buckyballs, the CEO of the company that makes and markets Water Balz says the product should never be near toddlers in the first place. DuneCraft’s CEO Grant Cleveland said:
“An eight-month-old has no business being near that product … Trying to turn it in to a public risk is absurd.”
Of the eight-month-old who ingested the gel ball and experienced an intestinal blockage, one surgeon explains:
“The blockage allows fluid and gas to accumulate, it is just like you step on a hose … If this is not taken care of really quickly, there can actually be a perforation … and you can die from it.”
The report on the safety of gel balls and risk due to ingestion was published this month in the journal Pediatrics.