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What were Jumbo Water Balz?

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Jumbo Water Balz were part of a line of grow-in-water toys made from superabsorbent polymer sold by Dunecraft. The purchaser hydrated the balls in distilled water for 24 to 48 hours until the balls grew slightly larger than golf balls. The balls were non-toxic and colorfast, but the government recalled them from public sale in December 2012 due to a potential choking hazard in young children.

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The Dunecraft Water Balz recall was the result of an article published in medical journal Pediatrics by doctors at the Texas Children's Hospital. The report outlined the case of an 8-month old girl who swallowed one of the brightly colored balls, which required surgical removal after it expanded and blocked her small intestine.

The Maya Group continues to manufacture and sell similar, slightly smaller balls made from superabsorbent polymer. Companies market them as Orbeez for use in children's culinary and beauty industry themed toys and Xploderz non-toxic, water-soluble ammunition for toy weapons. Manufacturers of the Xploderz range market Xploderz products as safer alternatives to paintball.

The United States Department of Agriculture developed superabsorbent polymers in the early 1960s to improve water retention in soils. Modern uses include water blocking for wiring, medical spill control and absorbency aids in personal hygiene products.

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