Feds Pop Bubble of Water-Walking Balls, Warn of Safety Concerns

Water-walking ballsIt's a giant see-through plastic ball you climb into to walk on water, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned consumers not to use them after one person was hurt and a child nearly suffocated.

The water-walking balls are usually used by children and can be found as water sport rides at amusement parks, carnivals, malls and sporting events among other places. Consumers can also buy the human hamster balls in various sizes and shapes ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars each.Several water-walking ball suppliers say the maximum amount of time spent within the bubbles should be between three and seven minutes. One ride operator, Broadway on the Beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C. told its customers that its rides were closed until further notice because of new U.S. safety standards. "We can not operate our business at this time," the company said. The site still sells water-walking balls to consumers from other countries, but won't sell them to U.S. consumers.

CPSC said the problem is the plastic balls have no emergency exit and can only be opened from the outside -- making them potentially fatal to the person inside the ball. How these things work is someone climbs into the sphere and then it's inflated through the zipper opening. Once the zipper is closed, the ball is air tight and can roll around on water, ice, grass and other surfaces.

Several states have already banned or refused permits for the rides using these spheres and CPSC said a child passed out after being inside the ball for a short time and needed medical treatment. Another person broke a bone when the ball fell out of a shallow above-ground pool to the ground.

CPSC said because the bubbles are air tight, oxygen can be depleted in as little as a few minutes. Some rides allow the water-walking balls on open water, which creates a risk of colliding with things like boats, buoys and piers. If the ball is punctured, the person inside could even drown.

The agency's warning comes as consumers are starting to get ready for pool season. Last summer CPSC kicked off a pool safety campaign after hundreds of children either drowned or were hurt at pools and spas nationwide.
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