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June 20th, 2011
01:13 PM ET

Portable pools pose surprising drowning dangers

Warm summer weather means pool time for children and adults. And while most parents are aware of the potential dangers of in-ground swimming pools, they may not be aware of the dangers posed by portable pools, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

Drowning was the second leading accidental cause of death among children aged 1 to 15 in the United States according to CDC data for 2006. The highest risk for drowning is among boys younger than age 5, and more than half of the drowning deaths reported in 2006 occurred at home.

Portable pools - which include movable wading pools, inflatable pools, and “soft sided, self rising” pools can be found in home improvement stores, variety stores, toy stores, and even at the grocery store.

The Pediatrics study is the first to look at deaths and injuries that occurred in portable pools in among kids younger than age 12 in the United States. It’s important to note that incidents can occur in less than 2 feet of water.

Between 2001 and 2009 a total of 244 portable pool submersion incidents were reported for children younger than age 12.  Of those events, 86%  – 209 cases — were fatal.  The majority of incidents – 94% – involved kids younger than age 5.  Almost three-quarters occurred at the child’s home, mostly during the summer months.

The study found that the number of portable pool submersion cases increased 500% from 2001 to 2005, however the injury rates held steady from 2005 to 2009.

Parents need to be aware of the dangers of wading pools and know that kids always need to be supervised when they are playing in pools. While protective fencing is a measure that makes sense for in-ground pools, it doesn’t always make economic sense to install fencing around an inexpensive wading pool.  The authors of the study suggest the wading pool industry consider developing reasonably priced fencing to limit access to pools, as well as covers for the pools, and alarm systems that alert when the pool is entered. And it's important for caregivers to have water safety instruction which includes CPR.


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