Small polymer balls that absorb water and expand to be the size of a golf ball pose a serious safety hazard to children and should not be used as toys.
Several Australian children have ingested water-absorbing balls (also known as water beads) and have required hospital treatment to have them removed.
The products are small and colourful and can be attractive to young children, who naturally place items in their mouths at early stages of their development.
Once ingested, just one ball can expand inside a child’s body and cause intestinal obstruction, vomiting, severe discomfort and dehydration and may need to be surgically removed.
We understand the balls don’t show up on x-rays which can make diagnosis complicated.
While the balls are commonly used in decorative items such as vases and centrepieces, they have recently been marketed as sensory learning toys for children.
The ACCC is urging businesses who are supplying these products as toys to stop immediately. We will work with industry to address safety concerns.
Parents and carers should also take the following actions to avoid accidents:
- Stop using expanding water balls as toys or playthings immediately.
- Keep expanding water balls out of reach of children – make sure these products are well out of sight and out of reach of children.
- Keep any items, including decorative pieces like vases that contain expanding water balls well out of reach of children.
- If you suspect a child has swallowed these water balls, you should seek medical attention immediately.