Now that the hottest days of August are among us, families flock to pools and beaches to cool off and enjoy the sunshine. When it comes to pools, many parents and caregivers are already aware of the importance of water safety, especially that children should never play near water unsupervised. However, we should also consider other swimming-related safety risks – in particular, pool drains and inflatable pool toys.
As with any children’s toy, all inflatable pool toys should be checked for recalls and for rips and sharp edges before use. These products are not meant to act as life vests or safety devices – so always keep a young child within arms’ reach while they are using pool toys. When it comes to larger, enclosed inflatable pool toys with walls and roofs, commonly called “habitats,” parents might want to forgo them altogether. The main safety risk with enclosed floating habitats is that they are easily flipped over. This malfunction can injure children by throwing them against the side of the pool or create drowning risks through trapping a child inside underwater or ejecting him or her into deep water. Habitats also tend to get slippery when wet. In addition, if the walls are not transparent, there may be blind spots where a child – potentially in distress – is not visible to adult monitors.
Pool drains also pose serious risks to children. In June 2002, Virginia Graeme Baker drowned when she became stuck to a hot tub drain. In 2007 the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was passed requiring anti-entrapment drain covers in public pools and spas. If you have your own pool or spa, you should install an anti-entrapment drain cover. Additionally, in order to prevent drain entrapments, follow these guidelines.
Visit poolsafety.gov, a CPSC-associated informational site, to learn more about being safe when playing in and around water this summer. Report problems with any pool drains or water toys and accessories to SaferProducts.gov.