Further investigations into the dangers of mermaid tails and fins have been conducted with terrifying results.
A study into the drowning risks for children wearing mermaid tails and fins showed they can reduce a child’s ability to swim by up to 70 per cent, dramatically increasing the chances of drowning, reports ABC news.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) first issued warnings related to the products after a video posted online, which showed a young girl wearing a mermaid tail becoming stuck upside down underwater in a backyard swimming pool in the US, went viral in 2015.
The ACCC commissioned a study by the Royal Life Saving Society of WA (RLSWA) to test the swimming skills of children aged between two and 12, both while wearing and not wearing the tails and fins.
While the RLSWA recommended no children wear the products, it acknowledged they were becoming increasingly popular and said it was important parents knew how dangerous they could be.
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“These products significantly reduce a child’s movement in the water as they’re quite binding in their nature holding their legs together.” RLSWA senior health promotion and research manager Lauren Nimmo said.
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“The study really highlights the extent these products reduce a child’s ability to swim, increasing their tiredness more quickly, and we know that children can drown in such a short period of time, so these factors really do increase the risk of a drowning tragedy.
“A number of children … when they put the products on actually felt so unsafe they didn’t want to get in the water.”
She said despite this 75 per cent of the children tested said the products were fun and they would use them again.
WA Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said while he had suspected the study would confirm concerns with the pool toys, the severity with which it showed swimming ability was impacted was remarkable.
There has been no recorded drowning in Australia attributable to mermaid tails or fins, but Mr Hillyard said it was only a matter of time and he was hopeful the study would prevent it happening.
“The evidence is now in front of us that this is a risk and we don’t want to take unnecessary risks with children swimming,” he said.
“If you’re looking to tread water in a pool, you’re going to use your arms and you’re going to kick your legs so you can stay up and float easily.
“But if all of a sudden you haven’t got the ability to kick your legs and tread water you can see how difficulties might arise.
“If you think about that sort of situation for yourself, and then magnify it for a young child wearing these things who doesn’t have the sort of experience an adult might have, even a child who might be a relatively strong swimmer, tying their feet together in this sort of device is still going to be a worry.”
The ACCC will consider the test results before deciding whether to impose formal regulations around the sale and use of the products.
In December 2015 CHOICE warned parents about the potential dangers of ‘mermaid tails’. They recommended “children should be at least six, be a good swimmer, have adult supervision and perhaps they will need a lesson first on how to use the tail.” Read more here.
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