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I had never heard of "gel balls" before reading a recent news article, but after learning that this seemingly innocent toy can cause serious injury to infants, I felt that I needed to warn parents about the potential dangers. If you aren't familiar with gel balls, they are colored balls that expand in water. Recently, a toddler underwent emergency surgery to remove one of the balls when it became lodged in her intestinal track after she swallowed it.

The balls are marketed under the name Water Balz by Ohio-based company DuneCraft Inc. and start out very small but can expand to the size of a racquetball in water. For toddlers with an oral fixation, this can spell big problems as the ball starts out large and expands rapidly. That was the case of an 8-month old girl who was brought to Texas Children's Hospital with stomach problems. Her parents suspected that she had eaten one of her sister's water balls, which can expand up to 400 times its original size.

Unfortunately, over the next 48 hours, the little girl's stomach expanded even more. Doctors could see something obstructing her intestines on X-ray, but could not make out exactly what it was. After cutting open her intestines, they discovered a bright green Water Balz that was nearly an inch and a half across. Doctors at Texas Children's Hospital warn that parents must be particularly careful with products like these, since toddlers are known to put anything in their mouths. They also noted that if the girl's intestines were blocked long enough, they could've ruptured. Water Balz takes not responsibility for the accident, and recently stated that "An eight-month-old has no business being near that product…Trying to turn it in to a public risk is absurd." However, Water Balz are very similar to polymer balls used in garden arrangements, and small animals have also been known to accidentally swallow them while they are small in size, only to have them expand later on and cause death.


  1. Gravatar for Courtney

    Exactly true, an infant has no business being around those. Reading this, all I can think is where were the parents? Obviously NOT supervising their children. Aren't there better stories to report on than the known fact that America has an over abundance of unfit parents.

  2. Gravatar for Jessica Hoerman

    First of all, thanks for posting this, David. I am going to send it on to friends. I have to disagree with Courtney - my kids are school age and they love these things. I can think of numerous times that they are sitting in a cup on my counter. How many times have I had friends with babies/toddlers come to my home? I could see how this could happen easily. I will be more cautious now, but, this could easily happen to anyone.

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