Popular Water Balz toys pose choking hazards to pets and children, according to a recent report.
The toys are small, round, brightly colored, marble-like toys constructed of super-absorbent polymer that can rapidly grow to the size of a racquetball when wet, said The New York Times. It is its expanding properties that make Water Balz popular with children and that make it very dangerous to children and animals. In fact, said The Times, some pediatricians have warned parents about the toys’ dangers.
A report just published in the journal Pediatrics involved Texas physicians who documented one case concerning a baby who swallowed a Water Balz and required surgery to have the toy removed, said The Times. When the baby swallowed the small toy it was the size of a small marble, said The Times. By the time it reached her digestive tract, it expanded blocked her intestines.
“Kids swallow things all the time,” Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, report author and a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, told The Times. “Most of the time, objects that are small enough to get into the stomach will pass through without causing any problem. But this type of material is made to absorb water, and over time it keeps growing and growing and gets to a size where it can’t get through the digestive tract,” he added.
WebMD pointed out that the toys look like candy to children and can expand to 400 times their original size when wet. The eight-month-old baby was brought to the hospital about 15 hours after she swallowed the Water Balz and was suffering from stomach problems. X-rays did not reveal the toy when she was first brought in for treatment; however, she was admitted; within a couple of days, her belly became swollen and she was exhibiting symptoms consistent with a blockage. The ball had blocked the baby’s lowest portion of her small intestine, said WebMD. The doctors from the Texas Children’s Hospital believe this is the first presumed case of its kind.
The doctors removed the toy, which had expanded to more than one inch, which is larger than the small intestine’s typical diameter. The toy, unaffected by digestion, was fully intact, said WebMD.
The pediatricians tested the Water Balz, placing them in water and measuring them at hours and days later. The toys doubled in size in the first two hours, growing most in the first 12 hours after submersion, said WebMD. The doctors’ tests also revealed that the Water Balz did not break down after being placed in water for four days.
“This case represents a cautionary warning for both parents and practitioners of the potential dangers of ingesting polymer, water-absorbent balls,” the researchers say. “It also highlights the need for earlier intervention if these super absorbent toys are accidentally ingested,” he added, according to WebMD.
The manufacturer of Water Balz, DuneCraft Inc. says the toys are meant for children who are not younger that four years of age; however, Dr. Olutoye, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine, told The Times, that the warnings might not stop younger children from swallowing the colorful toys. Dr. Olutoye noted that similar materials are used in pottery and gardening because of how they absorb water and expand, noting that there have been two known cases of birds dying after ingesting the super-absorbent product. “We speculate that this problem may increase in incidence as a cursory look at department stores suggests that the use of super absorbent polymer technology is becoming more prevalent in toys, gardening equipment, and other household products,” he added, according to the Times.