National recall on water-absorbing balls sold at Fremantle Markets

Water-absorbing balls. Photo:
Water-absorbing balls. Photo:

A NATIONAL recall has been issued for water absorbing balls sold by a WA supplier.

The supplier, Alpak Trade Pty Ltd trading as Fremantle Water Beads, has agreed to withdraw the water expandable polymer balls or water beads from the marketplace, but many of the products have already been sold in WA.

The voluntary recall is the result of action by Consumer Protection product safety officers in WA after the balls were found to be on sale to children at the Perth Royal Show.

They were also sold at the Fremantle Markets and online since March 2015.

The polymer balls were originally designed for the floral industry to hold flowers in place.

These products are now being purchased and sold as a tactile toy for children.

If swallowed, the tiny balls can expand and block a child’s intestines or bowel and may also obstruct airways posing a choking hazard.

In Geraldton in December 2014, a two-year-old boy was treated at the local hospital after ingesting up to 12 water absorbing balls.

In some overseas cases, children have required surgery to have the expanded beads, which don’t show up on x-rays, removed.

The death of a child in Pakistan has also been reported.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said it is vital that these balls are not sold to children as toys.

“The colourful balls may look like lollies and be very attractive to a young child so parents and carers of children need to be on alert,” Mr Hillyard said.

“The balls sold by Fremantle Water Beads are about 2 to 3mm in their original size but expand to 8mm when expanded so can cause serious injury or even death if swallowed.

“If you have these products in the home they should be kept well away from young children.”

Consumers who purchased the expandable polymer balls believing they were suitable for children can return them to Fremantle Water Beads for a full refund.

Further information on product safety is available at

Reports of unsafe products being sold should be made to Consumer Protection by email: or by calling 1300 30 40 54.