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Social media trend 'Orbeez challenge' has police putting out warning

Videos on social media show people using the gel-like balls as weapons.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Law enforcement agencies are asking parents to keep an eye out on their kids using a popular toy before someone's eye gets shot out.

The latest viral social media trend, called the "Orbeez challenge," involves Orbeez. They're "super absorbent polymers" as described by their manufacturer on Amazon, and once water is added to a single bead, it can grow up to 10 times its original size.

The #Orbeez hashtag on TikTok has more than a billion views, with #OrbeezChallenge closing in on 150 million more. The vast majority of videos on the platform show people playing with the beads and doing wacky experiments, like dumping a bunch in a bathtub or pouring some into some snow.

But police in Fernandina Beach, Florida, this week said the challenge that's getting people into trouble encourages users to shoot Orbeez with a gel blaster or similar type of gun. The toy becomes a soft, gel-like product when water is added, but police warn they can hurt if fired.

There are several posts on TikTok showing people with "gel blaster guns" and firing them, some toward other people.

Credit: Volusia Sheriff
Gel blaster gun via Volusia Sheriff

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in a short statement said its deputies have dealt with a few incidents recently. Deputies in Volusia County arrested a 19-year-old accused of shooting an Amazon worker in the neck while he was driving, according to First Coast News. 

They say the same shooter allegedly shot another adult and a 10-year-old child in the face and chest.

And in Georgia, 11 Alive reported an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old were shot with Orbeez, causing injury to their faces and abdomens. The Peachtree City Poice said they saw people on a golf cart firing the Orbeez beads that they had frozen.

The alleged shooters, some of whom are minors, all face various charges.

Orbeez manufacturer Spin Master told NPR in a statement, "Children's product safety is paramount at Spin Master, and we are committed to providing children and their families with the highest quality toys, games and activities. Spin Master does not manufacture or sell gel guns.

"Orbeez are designed for educational, creative, and sensory play and are not intended to be used as projectiles or inserted in mechanisms." 

While the "challenge" could cause injury, the Fernandina Beach Police Department warned of another danger.

"This 'trend' also has the potential to cause fear or panic in that some of these gel blaster guns could be mistaken for an actual firearm," it wrote on Facebook.

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