With drowning in backyard pools accounting for so many child deaths in Australia, is it time to ban backyard pools? Jo Abi says yes.
Drowning is one of the leading cause of death in children under five with majority of those deaths occurring in backyard pools. So why haven’t backyard pools been banned? If any other product or activity caused so many injuries and deaths in our most vulnerable they would be banned, there would be lawsuits, there would be outrage. Except backyard pools are an intrinsic part of Australian culture, and it’s costing us children’s lives.
According to Kidsafe, an average of two Australian children drown each week. Most are under 5 years of age and more than half drown in backyard pools. “The children at greatest risk are toddlers, aged 1-3, and for them drowning is the single most common cause of death”. This statistic doesn’t account for the number of near drownings, many of which result in brain injuries.
Westmead Children’s Hospital confirms that in NSW alone, from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, 12 children under five died from drowning and a further 64 were admitted to hospital for near drowning. “Children under five years of age have the highest mortality rate out of any age group, with approximately 50% of drowning deaths occurring in swimming pools.”
Backyard pools need to be banned. They are way too dangerous. It doesn't matter if you have a pool fence, locks on your back door, are super vigilant, have children who can swim. Drowning deaths and backyard pool related injuries are too frequent for us to ignore.
Ask yourself this. How many children's lives would be saved if backyard pools were banned? 31 last year, and that doesn't account for those children who were saved but suffered brain damage.
The Royal Life Saving Society confirms swimming pools account for the largest proportion of drowning deaths in children aged under 5. "Swimming pools continue to account for the largest proportion of drowning deaths in this age group, representing 61% of all drowning deaths in children aged 0-4 years. Swimming pools are also the only location which has increased this year when compared to the 10 year average."
Bathing accounts for 13% of all drowning deaths in children under five. So, should bathing be banned, buckets, shallow pools, puddles after the rain? Probably not, but banning backyard pools is a the simplest way to arrest this shocking statistic and save hundreds, if not thousands of children's lives.
Every time I discuss this with a friend they explain to me why their backyard pool is safe. They are kidding themselves. For every safety measure mentioned there are hundreds of stories where this safety measure has failed.
"We have a pool fence"
Children push furniture against the gate and figure out how to open it, it's left open accidentally, the gate breaks or is faulty or the child enters the enclosure under adult supervision, falls in while the adult watches on and although they are quickly retrieved has inhaled enough water to cause serious injury.
"I watch them really carefully"
Be honest with yourself. Seriously, how vigilant can human beings really be? You can be watching your children while sitting poolside and be distracted by other children fighting, a commotion of some kind, the phone ringing, needing to use the toilet. There are also countless cases of 'silent drowning' where a child drowns without there being any outward signs that it's occurring. They look like they are swimming, or playing.