WASHINGTON (Reuters) - "Water walking" -- moving across water or other surfaces while inside a large inflated plastic ball -- poses risks of suffocation and drowning, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Thursday.
Water walking balls are large clear plastic balls filled with air via a blower through a zipper opening. The zipper is then closed and the ball becomes air-tight, allowing the person in the ball to move across water, ice or grass.
The lack of an emergency exit and fact the balls can only be opened from the outside heighten the risk of injury or death when a person inside experiences distress, the CPSC said in a consumer alert on Thursday.
According to one operator's website, on a sunny, hot day, there is enough air in a filled ball to last five minutes safely.
The CPSC said that it had received a report of an unresponsive child who was found in a ball after being inside for a short period of time. There was another incident reported where a person inside the ball suffered a fracture after the ball fell from a shallow above-ground pool.
However, Edward Davtyan, who operates a facility with the balls in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said that he had not received any complaints in the three years that he has worked with Walking Water Balls USA, one of the first companies to bring the attraction to the United States.
"Any amusement ride is risky," he said over the phone.
"If you leave unattended the bubbles, if you leave the person a long time inside the bubbles, it might be a problem," he said.
"It depends on how you operate it."
Several states have either banned or refused to provide permits for the attraction found at amusement parks, carnivals, malls, sporting events and other high-traffic areas.
Walking water balls first became popular in China.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)