New Risks Associated with Portable and Inflatable Pools (from Yahoo Health, Licensed from Health Day News)
Burman, Critton, Luttier and Coleman LLP Blog
By Dean Xenick
Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio recently released a new study which reveals that portable swimming pools, including the increasingly popular, inflatable models, pose serious risks to young children. Researchers studied the drowning deaths of more than 200 children under 12 years old, and found a link to a variety of above-ground pools, some large and deep, others small and shallow. The report, published in the June 20 online edition of Pediatrics, highlights the need for safety precautions around all pools, safety advocates said.
According to lead researcher Dr. Gary A. Smith, director of the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy, "About every five days a child drowns in a portable pool in the U.S.," and because these pools are inexpensive and easy to assemble, many parents may not consider them as big a risk as in-ground pools, he said. The greatest risks are for children younger than 5 years, the researchers found.
Safe Kids USA is a nationwide network of organizations working to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability for children ages 1 to 14. Safe Kids USA educates families, provide safety devices to families in need and advocates for better laws to help keep children safe, healthy and out of the emergency room. According to Safe Kids USA President, Meri-K Appy, "Safe Kids has been concerned about the increasing use of backyard pools that are too small for consumers to consider investing in fencing but too large to make them easy to empty and secure safely after each use. This important study confirms our speculation that portable pools in backyards across America pose special risks to young children."
In the Nationwide Children's Hospital study, using 2001-2009 data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Smith's team of researchers identified 209 drowning deaths and 35 near-drownings in children under 12. The team discovered that 94 percent of the children were under 5 and most (56 percent) were boys. Further, about three-quarters of the deaths took place in the child's own yard, usually during the summer. Over 40 percent of the drownings happened while the child was being supervised; 39 percent occurred with no adult supervision; and 18 percent were blamed on a lapse of supervision. The study also concluded that about 40 percent of the drownings took place in a shallow wading pool.
"That's in 18 inches or less of water," Smith said. "Children can drown in very small amounts of water. Very young children can drown in a five-gallon bucket with water in the bottom. It only takes a couple of inches and a few minutes. Close supervision of young children around water is really important, but supervision alone isn't enough," he continued.
While in-ground pools have a variety of safety measures available for parents to purchase, such as fencing and pool alarms, this is not the case for portable pools. Thus, in their study, Smith and his researchers make a call for industry development of reliable pool alarms, covers, and affordable fencing for portable pools. "We have to come up with other strategies that are affordable and effective for portable pools."
The study also raises concerns about pool ladders. "Most of the kids got into the pool using a ladder that was provided with the pool," Smith said. One suggestion is to remove the pool ladder when the pool is not in use and to store it out of reach of children.
Dr. Barbara Gaines, director of trauma and injury prevention at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said that "this reminds us that while water is very inviting for children, it is also extremely hazardous. Never underestimate water."
Gaines' advises that parents need to be very watchful when their children are in and around water, including pools, ponds and bathtubs, to empty wading pools when not in use, it out when the pool is not in use, and parents must actively supervise their children "Someone has to be on pool duty," at all times.
Lastly, Safe Kids USA promotes a pool-safety concept called "Lock, Look and Learn":
LOCK: Erect fencing at least 4 feet high with a self-latching gate and keep it locked at all times unless an adult is present.
LOOK: Parents and caregivers should watch children in or near the water at all times, and not socialize, read or sleep.
LEARN: "Adults should learn to swim themselves and provide swimming lessons to their children from an early age," Appy said. They should also know how to respond to an emergency — "use rescue equipment, call 911 and perform CPR," she added.
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