Safety of Water Balz, Orbeez children's toys tested by Consumer Reports


An ad for Orbeez shows how the tiny, highly absorbent beads expand in water. Water Balz by Dunecraft, also made of super-absorbent polymer, are larger and were recalled late last year after Aunraya, then 8-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 1 1/2 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," said Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye.

While the full size of Orbeez is much smaller than the banned Water Balz, Consumer Reports says they also pose a safety hazard for small children.

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," said Andrea Rock.

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," said Dr. Eric Mallow.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it's currently investigating polymer balls and beads. Meanwhile, Orbeez, which are smaller than other beads on the market, says its tests show the toy is safe for children 5 and older. Orbeez says the balls should pass through the 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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