Portable swimming pools are potentially more dangerous than stationary models, according to the first U.S. study involving child drownings in temporary pools.
The reason, experts say, is that the inflatable pools - which are relatively inexpensive, readily available and don't require professional installation - don't generate the same sense of risk among owners, according to the study appearing in the journal "Pediatrics."
"Parents think if something is sold without a barrier it doesn't need one. It's safe," said Richboro resident Beverly Payton, a water safety advocate whose 3-year-old daughter drowned in a neighbor's unsecured pool in 1988. "You have to think of it as a monster in your backyard ready to eat your child."
The new study found that a child in the U.S. died every five days in portable pools during warm weather months. Between 2001 and 2009, there were 209 deaths nationwide and 35 near-drownings involving children under age 14. More than 90 percent of the children were under 5.
Researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio and Independent Safety Consulting in Maryland say the findings are comparable to drownings related to in-ground pools.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates an average of 5,100 pool or spa-related submersion injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments each year from 2008 through 2010. Most involved children younger than 5.
The new study focused on temporary swimming pools, ranging from wading pools that are less than 18 inches deep to inflatable pools and soft-sided pools that can reach depths of 4 feet.
Study researchers found that many safety features, such as fencing, pool alarms, safety covers and removable ladders used with permanent pools are too expensive or not easily available for families who buy stationary pools.