CPSC: Water walking balls are unsafe

March 31, 2011

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning consumers about a suffocation and drowning hazard posed by water walking balls, which have turned up at amusement parks, carnivals and other high-traffic areas.

I remember seeing a long line at the food court of Arundel Mills earlier this year, waiting to be zipped into one of these clear plastic human-sized hamster balls, floating in a small pool of water.

The balls are inflated with air and people use them to walk, run and bump into each other --- if you can remain upright. And according to the CPSC, they are also sold for personal use for not only water but other surfaces such as ice or grass.

They are sold and operated under different brand names, but the CPSC says they don't know of a safe way to use them.

Here's the major problem: there's only a limited amount of air inside, so the oxygen depletes quickly while carbon monoxide accumulates. There have been two reports of injuries that the CPSC is aware of so far: one child found unresponsive inside a ball, and one person who fractured a bone after the ball fell out of an above-ground pool and onto the ground. 

I was just reading one site that sells the balls, and they recommend it be refilled with fresh air every five minutes on days that are not sunny or hot. On warm days, it should only be used for five minutes.

According to the CPSC, the risk is escalated because balls have no emergency exits and people can only be released by someone on the outside.

Some states have already banned water walking balls, but the CPSC is trying to spread the word about the risk they pose as well as gather more details about any injuries related to them.

You can submit water-walking ball injury reports to the CPSC at www.saferproducts.gov

Have you ever gotten into a water-walking ball? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. How long did you stay inside, and were you concerned about safety?

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