Here’s the thing: if you make something that’s brightly colored and looks like candy, kids are going to eat it. Water Balz and other similar expanding, water-absorbing polymer toys seem pretty fun, and are also bright and shiny and look like candy. The problem comes when a pet or a child who is too young to understand gets hold of one of these delicious treats and eats it.
They expand rapidly in water, but also expand in the presence of small amounts of moisture, obstructing a child’s breathing when caught in an airway. An 8-month old girl in Texas ate one of the toys and it expanded, blocking her small intestine and requiring surgery. Expanding polymer toys are now banned in Italy and in Malaysia, where one child has died and many more needed surgery after eating the toys.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission is currently investigating all polymer ball toys. The Dunecraft versions specifically marketed to small children have been recalled, which we included in our December Recall Roundup.
Polymer balls raise alarm [Consumer Reports]