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State Issues 'Stern Warning' Against Water Balls

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety is issuing a stern warning against water balls after a 5-year-old girl nearly died in one at the Independence Mall in Kingston last month.

"I am deeply concerned about the inherent safety risks associated with these devices," said Commissioner Thomas Gatzunis. "I want to make sure that people understand there is a potential threat to anyone who chooses to get inside one of these sealed devices, particularly for young children."

WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill reports.

Water balls are a popular attraction at local carnivals and inside malls; they entered the U.S. market last summer, after years of popularity in Europe.  Children climb inside of a large inflatable ball, which is blown up and sealed. They are then able to walk on water, inside the inflated ball.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety is strongly recommending that consumers stay away from the devices, while it works with state lawmakers to ban their use in the Commonwealth. Currently, the department has no regulatory authority over water balls.

The water ball attraction inside the Independence Mall remains shut down.

Simon Malls, which operates Eurobubble water balls in several of its malls, indicated they have no immediate plans to discontinue their use. Spokeswoman Laurel Sibert said safety has been reviewed and the proper permits are in place.

WBZ-TV's Beth Germano checks out Water Balls at a local mall.

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