Why Water Walking Balls Are Risky

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People shouldn’t attempt walking on water because it isn’t safe, the government said, cautioning people not to climb into the large, plastic “water walking” balls that have grown in popularity as rides in amusement parks, malls and carnivals in the U.S.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns consumers against the activity because of the risk of suffocation and drowning. After a person climbs into the big plastic ball, it is inflated by a blower through a zipper opening and is then zipped shut, making it airtight. People then roll or walk across water and other surfaces, including ice and grass — like a hamster in a ball.

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“We want to tell the public how dangerous these products are before someone is killed,” said Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the commission, the AP reports.

Among the CPSC’s concerns is that oxygen can be depleted inside the ball, and dangerous carbon dioxide levels can accumulate in a matter of minutes. People with medical conditions, such as heart, lung or breathing issues, could be at higher risk for harm, the commission said.

Further, the ball’s lack of emergency exit — it can be unzipped only from the outside — means that people can become trapped within it, increasing the risk of injury or death. If the ball springs a leak, riders could drown. Also, because the ball contains no padding, impact injuries are possible if balls collide with each other or land on hard surfaces.

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The commission has received two reports of injuries from the activity, both involving young children: last year, a 5-year-old girl in Kingston, Mass., passed out while inside a ball for a brief time; the other incident involved a young boy who suffered a fractured arm when the ball fell out of a shallow above-ground pool onto the ground.

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The balls are made by various companies and are sold directly to consumers. The CPSC said it “does not know of any safe way to use this product.”

Manufacturers say their products are safe if used correctly; one maker’s website said its ball holds 30 minutes of oxygen, while rides usually last 7-10 minutes. Reported the Chicago Tribune:

Peter Raidt, owner of Miami-based Eurobungy USA, one of the many companies that distributes these balls, said he responded to the commission’s concerns two weeks ago by, among other things, proposing manufacturers install a handle inside the ball so riders can open the ball themselves. The commission has yet to respond.

The commission has urged state amusement ride officials to prohibit the ride. Several states have banned or refused to grant permits for the attraction already, according to the CPSC.

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