ACCC warns of dangers of water expanding balls to kids

6 March 2015

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is alerting consumers to the dangers of water expanding balls after several  children ingested  them in Australia and required hospital treatment to have them removed.

Water absorbing polymer balls (also known as water beads) can expand to the size of a golf ball when they come into contact with liquid, up to 400 times their original size. They are commonly used as decorative items in vases and centrepieces.

“The ACCC has recently discovered that water balls are being marketed as sensory learning toys for children and that three Australian children have required medical procedures after swallowing them,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Photographs water expanding balls

 “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,” Ms Rickard said.

“We urge businesses who are supplying these products as toys to immediately stop. The ACCC will work with industry to address safety concerns.

The ACCC urges consumers to follow these safety steps:

  • 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 consumers suspect their child has swallowed these water balls, they should seek medical attention immediately.

More information on product safety issues is available at www.productsafety.gov.au, @ACCCProdSafety on Twitter and the ACCC Product Safety Facebook page.

Release number: 
MR 28/15
ACCC Infocentre: 

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Media enquiries: 
Media team - 1300 138 917

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