If you subscribe to any play based education blogs for children you would have seen expanded water beads or “sensory balls” for kids. They are very popular and are used in childcare centers as well as home playgroups. You can also find them on Pinterest, and they are available to buy through many sellers, including plant nurseries.
In the last week the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been alerting consumers to the dangers of water expanding beads (also called sensory balls or polymer balls) after several children ingested them in Australia and required hospital treatment to have them removed. Water absorbing polymer beads can expand to 400 times their original size, similar to the size of a golf ball when they come into contact with water. They are commonly used as decorative items in vases and center-pieces.
“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. “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.
- Ask your child’s kindergarten or school if they use water beads and notify them about this safety warning.
Photo courtesy of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Maree has over five years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and in the development of safety standards, training workshops and improvement initiatives. She is passionate about health, safety and education. Maree, a mother of two children, has a Advanced Diploma in OHS and will be graduating soon with a B.Sc. (HSE) from Australia.