Published March 31, 2011
They look like giant hamster running balls, but humans use them at amusement parks, resorts, malls and carnivals.
They are known as “water walking balls,” and the Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning the public to stay away from them because it “does not know of any safe way to use” them. The commission said the balls could cause suffocation or drowning.
“We want to tell the public how dangerous these products are before someone is killed,” said Inez Tenenbaum, the commission’s chairwoman. “Our investigation into water walking balls will not stop with today’s warning.”
This is how the product works: a person climbs into the large, plastic, airtight ball and then rolls around a body of water, like a pool or lake. The commission said you could suffer a buildup of carbon monoxide while inside the ball, or a lack of oxygen.
Another concern: the fact that the product has no emergency exit and can be opened only by a person outside of the ball -- a serious problem if a person inside the ball experiences distress.
The commission said it is aware of two incidents in which people were hurt.
In the first, a 5-year-old girl in Kingston, Mass., passed out last year while inside a ball for a brief time. In the other, a young boy suffered a broken arm when the ball he was in fell out of a shallow above-ground pool onto the hard ground.
The balls, CPSC says, could also spring a leak or puncture, raising the drowning risk, especially with young children who can't swim.
Calls to manufacturers such as Eurobungy USA in Miami were not immediately returned.
One company that sells the water balls says on its website that there is enough oxygen to last 30 minutes. It says a ride usually lasts about 7-10 minutes, and that the balls are not dangerous as long as they are used safely.
The commission said it has informed state amusement ride officials of the risks associated with the water walking balls. It is encouraging state officials not to allow the rides.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.