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Portable Pools May Pose Drowning Risk for Kids

Study Shows 209 Children Drowned in Portable Pools From 2001 to 2009
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 20, 2011 -- Portable pools may come with a smaller price tag than in-ground swimming pools, but a new study shows that they are associated with a similar risk of drowning for young children.

Researchers found 209 children died as a result of drowning in a portable pool from 2001 to 2009.

A portable pool was described by researchers as any movable structure intended for swimming or other water recreation.

Researchers say it's the first study to look at the risk of drowning in portable pools, which include wading or "kiddie" pools, inflatable pools, and soft-sided "self-rising" pools.

Nearly all of the drowning cases involved children younger than 5. More than half were boys; 73% of the drowning deaths occurred in the child's own yard.

"Despite these statistics, many pool owners do not perceive their pool as a hazard for young children," write researcher Brenda J. Shields, MS, of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and colleagues in Pediatrics.

"A strong and pervasive consumer education campaign is needed to make consumers aware of the dangers of portable pools, because these small, inexpensive, consumer-installed pools may not generate the same sense of risk as an in-ground pool," they write.

Portable Pool Danger

Portable pools are available for purchase at toy stores, home improvement stores, and online. They range in price from a few dollars to $1,000 for larger pools.

The researchers analyzed all fatal and non-fatal submersion or drowning-related events involving children younger than 12 years old in portable pools reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from 2001 to 2009.

The results showed there were 209 fatal and 35 nonfatal events reported. Of these:

  • 94% involved children younger than 5 years of age.
  • 56% involved boys.
  • 81% occurred during the summer months.

Researchers found the number of drownings and near-drownings increased rapidly from 2001 to 2005, and then leveled off from 2005 to 2009, perhaps due to slowing sales of the pools and the start of media campaigns about the drowning risk associated with portable pools.

They say many layers of protection are needed to reduce the risk of children drowning in portable or kiddie pools. The first step is to prevent access to the pool by children though the use of isolation fencing and pool alarms.

Researchers also recommend that parents and caregivers closely supervise children and know CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

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