Safety Watchdog Punctures Balloon of Water-Walking Craze

Walking on water could be dangerous to your health — at least if you do it while enclosed in a giant inflatable plastic ball that is the latest fad in aquatic entertainment.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a government safety watchdog, tried to let the air out of the craze by issuing a warning about “a combination of risks,” including the possibility of suffocation or drowning, associated with “water walking balls.”

The agency “does not know of any safe way to use this product,” it said bluntly.

Water walking balls have become popular at amusement parks, resorts, malls and carnivals, giving users the opportunity to feel like a hamster by climbing into the see-through, airtight contraptions and then trying to walk on water in pools, lakes or rivers. “This is one of the best ways to build up your strength, balance, endurance and it’s a lot of fun as well!” one amusement business, Water Walking Ball of Myrtle Beach, S.C., says on its website.

But several states have banned the product or refused to provide permits for rides that use it. And the CPSC is now urging consumers to stop participating in water walking. Citing the “dangerous scenario” created by the ball being airtight, the agency said that “an inadequate air supply can result when oxygen is depleted and carbon dioxide accumulates inside the ball.”

The consumer alert also says users could: suffer impact injuries because the balls have no padding; risk drowning if a ball leaks or is punctured; or experience distress because the product has no emergency exit and can be opened only from outside.

“We want to tell the public how dangerous these products are before someone is killed,” Inez Tenenbaum, the CPSC chairwoman, told the Associated Press. “Our investigation into water walking balls will not stop with today’s warning.”

The commission said it was aware of two water-walking accidents. In one, a 5-year-old girl in Kingston, Mass., passed out while inside a ball for a brief time; in the other, a boy broke his arm when the ball he was in fell out of a shallow above-ground pool onto the hard ground below.

In Myrtle Beach, Water Walking Ball says it no longer is selling the product in the U.S. “because of new U.S. safety standards.” But it still is doing business with overseas customers.

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4 comments to “Safety Watchdog Punctures Balloon of Water-Walking Craze”

  1. melissa

    Agreed – I watched this amusement at a fair in Carmel Valley. The operators were vigilant and everything was in good condition. The kids were having a blast! About the suffocation, they are in the ball about 10 minutes or less, being monitored. Very unlikely. About the drowning, they are in 2 feet of water, being monitored. Very unlikely. Lovely fun!

  2. Jennifer

    There have been 2 injuries? This is not enough to make any sort of judgement about the safety of this product. I bet 20,000 kids got hurt on their bikes yesterday alone. I am sure those won’t be banned any time soon! We own these and run thousands of kids each weekend and have never had a problem. The problem is not the balls it is the operators. We have four balls in a 24×24 inflatable pool with 10 inches of water, and very soft sides. We operate them with no less than 2- 3 people and someone is always inside the pool monitoring the balls. Maybe instead of banning them they should require the people who own and operate them to follow all the safety requirements and training. Kids love this ride and it’s really sad that 2 accidents (that aren’t even related) are causing them to be banned. Many companies have invested in these balls becuase they are so popular and now will be out all the money that was spent on this amusement. We have already had 2 events tell us we couldn’t bring them becuase they are unsafe. I welcome anyone to come watch our operation and tell people it’s unsafe after watching this amusement done the correct way. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE RUNNING THEM! There are accidents everyday on canival rides, inflatables, bungees, trampolines and rock walls but the CSPA doesn’t ban those. This decision was made too quickly without enough facts….do more research and then come up with a solution that doesn’t involve just “banning”. TRAIN and Educate the people operating them and there won’t be an issue.

  3. stonemason89

    Maybe they could modify the balls so that:

    1. If they’re permeable to air but not water, suffocation should not be a risk
    2. If they have multiple layers, puncture would be less of a threat

  4. Ken Martin

    I normally side on the proactively on these issues. All they have are two incidents to make this judgement. What about all the other amusement devices, particularly bounce houses and inflatable slides? We have thousands of incidents involving those forms of amusement. It is more about operation than anything else.

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