They're colorful and alluring, but consumer reports says there's a potential safety hazard with popular small toy balls and beads that expand dramatically in water. there's been one recall, but many more of these super-absorbent polymer balls are still on the market.
"It's soft. It's squooshy. Thousands of Orbeez!"
This ad for a toy called Orbeez shows how the tiny, highly absorbent beads expand in water.
These Water Balz by Dunecraft - also made of super-absorbent polymer - are larger and were recalled late last year. This after Aunraya, then eight months old, swallowed one.
She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors couldn't see anything on the x-ray. But in surgery they removed a ball nearly one-and-a-half inches in diameter from her small intestine.
"If nothing had been done, the intestines would have perforated, the child would have had significant infection and sepsis and could have possibly died from it."
Consumer Reports examined the recalled Dunecraft Water Balz.
"This ball is fresh out of its package. And this is an identical ball that soaked in water for two days."
Consumer Reports also looked at tiny polymer beads that are still on the market, including Orbeez.
While their full size is much smaller than the banned Water Balz, Consumer Reports says they also pose a safety hazard for small children.
"These products look a lot like candy or gum, but they can expand enough within a few hours to block the intestine or airway of a small child."
The Orbeez beads do carry warnings. On the front the package says, "choking hazard ... not for children under three years." On the back, it says, "not suitable for children under the age of five."
"While additional injuries have not yet been documented in the U.S., several have been reported in other countries, including one fatality."
All types of super-absorbent polymer balls have been banned in Italy and Malaysia.
"The balls are found not only in toys but are sold widely as decorations. We are urging strongly that parents and caregivers keep these products out of the reach of small children."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it's currently investigating the polymer balls and beads.
Meanwhile Orbeez, whose beads are smaller than others on the market, says its tests show the toy is safe for children five and older.
Orbeez says the balls should pass through their digestive tract. However, Consumer Reports points out the company did not address the choking hazard or the potential of a blocked airway, which is a risk for all children.
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