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Yo-yo water ball under new U.S. scrutiny

Nov 12, 2006 | Consumer Reports

A popular, inexpensive children's toy blamed for more than 400 injuries is getting a fresh look by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The yo-yo water ball, which is marketed under various names, has caused many cases of near-strangulations, eye injuries and other problems with children around the country. It has been banned for sale in Illinois since last year, and bans have been proposed in Wisconsin, New Jersey and New York.

Skokie mother Lisa Lipin has been pushing for a nationwide ban of the toy since July 2003, when her son Andrew, then 5, was nearly strangled by a yo-yo water ball that wrapped around his neck. Since then, Lipin has compiled a list of 409 cases, including children who were knocked unconscious by the toy and suffered hospitalizations for skull or eye injuries.

The toys, which sell for as little as a dollar, are dangerous because the long, stretchy rubber cord can wrap tightly around the neck of a child who swings it like a lasso, Lipin said. In other cases, the toy has snapped back and punched a child in the face or eye. Other cases involved the balls leaking and, in one case, batteries being ingested by a 1-year-old.

Parents have described finding their children frantically trying to pull the thick rubber cord off their necks, unable to call out for help.

Advice: Cut the cord off
The CPSC issued an advisory about the toy in September 2003, telling parents to cut the cord off, but stopped short of a ban.

The CPSC's latest move was prompted by an Oct. 27 incident in Bellevue, Wash., in which a 5-year-old boy nearly strangled after the toy's cord wrapped three times around his neck. The CPSC plans to interview the family Monday.

CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said Friday the agency "is opening a formal investigation" into what happened in the Washington boy's case. Wolfson stopped short of saying whether that would lead to stronger action.

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