It is likely that there are many children in the Pittsburgh area that fascinated by polymer balls that have been sold as toys throughout the nation under brand names Water Balz and Orbeez. The small balls grow when water is added to them. Unfortunately these types of toys can be dangerous, particularly to young children. These dangers led to the recall of Water Balz sold by Dunecraft.
There appear to be at least two ways in which these toys are dangerous. The first is that like other small objects, they pose a choking risk. This is particularly troubling because the bright colors could lead some children to believe the toys are candy.
A second issue that could arise should someone swallow the super-absorbent polymer balls is that they could block that person's digestive tract after expanding as they make their way through the body. This actually occurred in at least one situation when a baby swallowed a Water Balz. The ball became stuck in her small intestine and had to be removed by doctors. When it was taken out, the now much larger ball was still intact. Had the toy not been removed in a timely manner it could have perforated the intestine. This in turn could have led to an infection and possibly death.
Toys serve an important role for children as they grow. It is through play that they learn. Most would likely agree however that no child should be forced to learn about life and death so early due to a dangerous toy.
Though these products sold by Water Balz have been recalled, parents should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Many other similar toys and products are still available for purchase by consumers.
Source: NewsInferno, "Consumer Reports Tests Safety of Water Balz, Orbeez Children's Toys," Cynthia A. Diaz-Shephard, April 8, 2013