Doctors warn gel balls could harm toddlers



PITTSBURGH - A baby in Texas nearly died after swallowing her older sister’s toy gel ball.  Right now, there's no recall, but doctors are sounding the alarm.  Target 11's Robin Taylor takes a look

I found gel balls, called "Water Gems," at a local craft store. These gel balls are used for flower arrangements, but gel balls are also marketed to kids as a fun science experiment. When placed in water, they'll expand to 400 times their original size. As you can imagine, if swallowed, that could cause a real problem.

Eight-month-old Aunraya Connolly, of Houston, Texas, had to have a gel ball surgically removed after it blocked her intestines.

Doctors at Texas Children's Hospital took X-rays but they couldn't see the ball.

Over the next 48 hours, the toddler's belly grew bigger and bigger. In the operating room, surgeons removed a bright green Water Balz brand gel ball the size of a golf ball.

"These balls will not be digested by the human body. An object that remains small enough will simply pass on through, but these objects tend to enlarge to the point where they may not get through. They will in fact get stuck," said Dr. Kevin Mollen, a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Most gel balls are the size of a marble and are soft and squishy. They're brightly colored and could easily be mistaken for candy by a child.

Once the ball is exposed to water, it will start to expand. Over the next 48 hours, gel balls will go from the size of a marble to the size of a racquet ball.

Water Balz, made by DuneCraft, carry a warning label that they should not be used around young children. The company's CEO, Grant Cleveland, said he was sorry to hear about the incident.

"Parents who have children younger than, say, age 4, and who have older children, should really consider whether they want to introduce an object like this into the home," said Mollen.

If a gel ball blocks the intestine long enough, it will eventually rupture, and that could be deadly. Gel balls should also be kept away from pets.