Water Balz Caused Bowel Obstruction After Swallowed by Toddler: Report

An eight-month old infant from Houston required surgery after swallowing a new type of toy ball, known as Water Balz, which expanded after it was ingested and completely obstructed her bowels.  

A new case report published last week in the medical journal Pediatrics outlines the case and describes the super-absorbent polymer balls as a growing problem given the risk they pose for small children.

Water Balz, manufactured by DuneCraft, are small brightly colored, absorbent polymer balls that are the size of a marble. However, after immersed in water, the balls grow to be 400 times the original size, according to advertising materials. The increase in size results in a toy the size of a racquet ball.

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The novelty toy has been increasing in popularity, especially among young children, because of their bright colors, unique characteristics and rapid growth.

The journal report emphasized the risk of problems with Water Balz, which may present an attractive object for a small child to place in their mouth.

Once ingested, Water Balz continue to increase in size as they travel through the body, potentially resulting in intestinal blockage. Irving J. Zamora, MD, and the report’s co-authors highlight the increasing risk of this toy, which can result in death if quick treatment is not provided.

In the case report, the authors outlined an incident involving eight-month old Aunraya DeWeese, who swallowed a Water Balz that was originally intended for her 3 year old sister. The infant began experiencing stomach pain and vomiting, was taken to the hospital and eventually required surgery to have the ball removed from her intestine.

Every year many children are taken to the emergency room as a result of ingesting small foreign objects. In recent months, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been focused on the risk of serious problems from toy magnet balls, which contain rare and powerful earth magnets that may cause marble-sized balls to attract across intestinal walls if they are swallowed.

Over the past three years, hundreds of children have been been hospitalized after swallowing the magnetic balls, causing the U.S. CPSC to force several manufacturers to recall the products, which were marketed as adult desk toys.

Recent reports have also outlined increasing concerns associated with children swallowing small laundry detergent pods, also known as liquid tabs or detergent capsules, which have been linked to a rise in the number of posioning accidents, particularly involving children under the age of two, who could put the attractive, candy-like pods in their mouth.

CORRECTION 12/18/2012: The original story contained a factual error, stating that the case report involved the death of DeWeese. There have been no deaths reported in relation to Water Balz injuries.


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