Water walking balls have become popular attractions at shopping malls, theme parks and waterparks across the United States. But a government agency whose mission is to protect consumers said in 2011 that water walking balls pose a serious risk of suffocation and drowning.
"The fact that the product has no emergency exit and can be opened only by a person outside of the ball significantly heightens the risk of injury or death when a person inside the ball experiences distress," the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned in March 2011. "Pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart, lung, or breathing issues, can be made worse by use of this product."
Injuries Caused by Water Walking Balls
The government urged consumers to stop using water walking balls, but at the time of its warning the consumer-protection agency said it knew of only two incidents in which a child was injured. Neither of them resulted in death.
In one of the incidents, a child was found unresponsive after being inside a water walking ball for only a very brief period of time and required emergency medical treatment. In the other, someone using a water walking ball suffered a fracture when the water walking ball fell out of the shallow, above-ground pool onto the hard ground.
How Water Walking Balls Are Used
Water walking balls are large and made of see-through plastic. They are inflated with a blower through small openings. When the openings are sealed and the user is inside, water walking balls are airtight and designed to float on water.
"Because the ball is airtight, an inadequate air supply can result when oxygen is depleted and carbon dioxide accumulates inside the ball," the Consumer Product Safety Commission said. "Such a dangerous scenario can occur in as little as a few minutes."
Water walking balls are most commonly used on water and at amusement parks, carnivals, malls and sporting events. But they have also been used on ice and grass, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Danger Posed by Water Walking Balls
The agency said it "does not know of any safe way to use this product."
"Because the water walking balls have no padding, impact injuries can occur if the balls collide with each other, or fall out of the pool onto concrete or other hard surfaces, such as ice or tile," the government agency said.
"These water walking balls are also being used on open water, creating the potential for injuries if the ball is struck by a boat or strikes a solid object, such as a buoy or pier. Additionally, the balls present a high risk of drowning if there is a leak or a puncture."
About the Consumer Product Safety Commission
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for protecting the public from "unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction."
"The CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals - contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years," the agency said.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission post reports of harm it receives from consumers through SaferProducts.gov. It also include responses from manufacturers.