ConsumerReports.org, the Web site for the nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting product safety, has released a report calling inflatable pools “drowning hazards” and warning parents not to purchase these pools for children.
Published in February, the article, called “Surprise Hazards,” featured eight products that Consumer Reports recommends parents to not buy for kids because of “potential injuries associated with them.”
“Based on independent and unbiased research, Consumer Reports has identified these products as being particularly hazardous to babies and children,” Donald Mays, senior director of product safety at Consumer Reports, said in a press statement. “Through testing done at the CR labs, our engineers and scientists have uncovered hidden safety problems under foreseeable use conditions.”
The report also recommended fences as “the best protective measure” against drownings for models larger than kiddie pools.
Inflatable pools were listed among products such as trampolines, which caused approximately 98,000 injuries in 2003, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. All-terrain vehicles were included. ATVs caused 450 deaths in 2004, roughly one-third of whom were children under age 16.
In comparison, CPSC reports only 19 known injuries in the United States caused by inflatable pools since May 2001, though 11 incidents resulted in death. In July 2005, another death was reported in Canada due to hair entrapment. Given those figures, many industry members feel Consumer Reports’ denouncement of inflatable pools is unwarranted.
“I would say the numbers from CPSC suggest a low incident rate compared to some other forms of recreational products and activities,” said Dwayne Carreau, vice president of Sofpool, LLC, in Rancho Cordova, Calif. “The number of injuries compared to trampolines, for instance, seems hugely disproportionate.”
The report comes on the heels of considerable negative publicity that inflatable pools have received in the consumer press since last summer. Most notably, two earlier articles by Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping referred to these products as safety hazards, warned parents about their usage and called for stricter standards to govern their manufacture and sale.
The concern is that many local building codes require these pools to be fenced, but the consumer is not made aware of the law at the time of their purchase. The pools sell for as little as $50 at some mass retail outlets. Not only that, but given their large size, owners are unlikely drain these vessels after each use, creating potential drowning risks when unattended.
Lately, such reports have been a detriment to manufacturers of other types of aboveground pools, who said inflatable pools are getting a bad rap and that the publicity has affected sales of all aboveground pools.
“The whole industry is taking a hit from these cheap products being sold at the big boxes,” Carreau said. “It’s causing us problems indirectly.”
By that, he means his company makes pools with inflatable top rings that look like many of the products in question, but do not fall into the same category. In fact, according to federal barrier code recommendations, his 48-inch pool walls don’t require a fence.
Currently, Consumer Unions, the Washington-based publisher of Consumer Reports, is working with ASTM International’s F15 Technical Committee and other industry groups to produce a new standard for inflatable pools above 24 inches.