March 31, 2011
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning consumers about the dangers of a new recreational activity known as “water walking balls,” “water balls” or by various other names, and urging states to ban them.
Water balls are a new attraction in amusement parks, carnivals, malls, sporting events and other high-traffic areas. Consumers may also purchase these balls for personal recreation.
To use one of these transparent plastic water balls, a person climbs inside via the zippered opening and another person on the outside of the ball closes the zipper partway, leaving room for an air blower to inflate the interior of the ball, then closes the airtight zipper after inflation. This traps the person inside the sealed ball.
People use these not only in pools, but also on the open water of ponds, lakes and the beach. People may also use them on other surfaces such as grass or snow.
Once the ball is zipped shut, the air supply may become inadequate as the user breathes, depleting oxygen and creating carbon dioxide. This can happen in only a few minutes.
CBS Boston reports that a girl stopped breathing inside a water ball at a mall attraction in Kingston, Mass. in November 2010. She needed several minutes of CPR by emergency responders and transport to a hospital. Her condition is unknown.
According to the CPSC, use of this product can increase pre-existing medical conditions such as heart, lung or respiratory issues.
If the user inside the ball suffers a lack of oxygen or other medical condition, they cannot escape the ball because someone on the outside must unzip the zipper. Such distress could happen as the user is on the open water, away from assistance.
“These water walking balls are also being used on open water, creating the potential for injuries if the ball is struck by a boat or strikes a solid object, such as a buoy or pier,” the CPSC said.
If a puncture, zipper failure or seam failure breached the airtight seal of the ball, the user could drown.
Water balls are not padded. Users could suffer injuries if balls collide, if the user bumps into an obstacle or falls onto a hard surface. The CPSC reports that one person suffered a fracture when the ball rolled out of the shallow, above ground pool onto the hard ground.
A website for Water Walking Ball, claiming to be the first business to open a water ball amusement in the United States, says users can stay inside their 6.5 diameter ball for five minutes before the air needs to be changed. However, the company’s location in South Carolina is already affected by new regulations.
“Our Broadway at the Beach (Myrtle beach, SC) locations are currently closed!” the Water Walking Ball website said. “Because of new US safety standards regarding of Water Walking Balls, we can not operate our business at this time. We will inform you on our website if any changes happen.”
“CPSC has informed state amusement ride officials of the risks associated with this product and encourages state officials not to permit this ride in their state,” the CPSC release said. “CPSC does not know of any safe way to use this product.”