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Expanding ball presents hazards to infants, toddlers

It doesn’t require a study to infer that an expanding toy that starts out the size of marble could cause problems for children or pets who swallow it. The relatively tiny Water Balz don’t seem to pose a threat at first glance and are brightly colored, often mistaken for candy.

However, the toy’s special properties make it more dangerous for children who have swallowed them than other small objects. Water Balz special polymer material expands when wet, and a ball that is in water will more than double in size within a few hours, with the packaging advertising that when left wet, it can grow up to 400 times its original size.

For one mother who’s infant swallowed one of the toys, it was difficult to know at first if it would pass normally or cause an obstruction. A few hours after swallowing the ball, the infant started to show signs of distress and began vomiting. When the pain got worse she took the 9-month-old to the hospital. The polymer material that the ball is made out of wasn’t visible in x-rays, but doctors knew there was something obstructing the infant’s digestive system. After using a tiny camera to look into her abdomen, doctors saw the expanded blue ball and proceeded to surgically remove it.

The manufacturer labels the toy for children four or older, but anyone with multiple children knows that it’s hard to keep younger siblings away from the older one’s toy pile. A recent report on the issue of children swallowing household objects pointed out the polymer toy products as a serious public health concern.

Children who are injured by these types of toys may have a claim in a products liability action against the manufacturer, particularly if the design of the toy was inherently dangerous.

Source: New York Times, “Expanding Ball Toy Poses Hazard to Children and Pets,” Anahad O’Connor, Sept. 17, 2012.

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