Study Reveals Drowning Hazards of Portable Pools
Portable pools have become increasingly more popular. But the alarming fact is that a child drowns in a portable pool every five days in the U.S. during the summer months, according to a recent study.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study analyzed data compiled by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission from 2001 through 2009 on children younger than 12 who had drowned or been injured in portable pools. The study found that in that time period, 209 children drowned and 35 nearly drowned in portable backyard pools, with boys under the age of five being at the greatest risk.
As Tara Parker-Pope writes in NYT‘s Well blog:
In addition, the study reports only on submersion accidents reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission and likely dramatically understates the total number of portable pool drowning deaths.
‘In our opinion, we don’t think parents are paying the same attention to safety when they go out and buy a portable pool,’ said Dr. Gary A. Smith, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. ‘We want parents to understand these pools also pose a similar drowning risk for young children as in-ground pools.’
Portable pools might be popular because they are a lot more affordable than in-ground pools or even stationary above-ground pools. But they pose hazards that in-ground pools do not, because in-ground pools typically have more security features to prevent accidents.
As the Parker-Pope’s article says:
‘Many of the protection methods and devices for in-ground pools are too expensive or not available for portable pools,’ said Dr. Smith. ‘Manufacturers need to step up and try to help consumers by coming up with affordable and effective prevention devices.’
Dr. Smith said that educating parents is essential because many parents simply don’t understand how fast a fatal pool accident can occur, even in a small pool. ‘The thing about drowning is that it’s simply different than most other types of injuries, because if you fall from playground equipment, you usually get another chance,’ he said. ‘With drowning, it’s quick, it’s silent and it’s final. That’s why it’s so important to prevent these events form occurring in the first place.’
The study found cases of drowning when children were playing in the pool while nearby parents were distracted by the phone or chores, and other cases when children walked out of their houses and used a ladder or other object to climb into the pool.
In a Reuters Lifestyle article by Genevra Pittman, Linda Quan, a drowning expert at Seattle Children’s Hospital, advises parents: “Supervision has to be constant… and for a very young child, even within arm’s reach.”
Quan recommends that parents:
• Have children wear a life jacket near the pool;
• Make sure children have no access to the pool when parents are not around, and perhaps even empty the pool, especially a smaller one;
• Put up fences and restrict access to ladders into the pool.
The study cautions that covering inflatable pools provides only limited protection. The researchers said that in at least one case, two children in the study drowned together when they got tangled in a pool cover.