Mermaid Tails and Fins increase risk of a child drowning, study finds

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A study into the drowning risks associated with mermaid tails and monofins has found that they significantly hinder a child’s ability to swim and has recommended age restrictions and increased supervision for their use.

The Perth-based review, conducted by The Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia (RLSSWA) and funded by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), tested the swimming performance of 25 girls and boys aged 2 to 12 years before and after wearing either a mermaid tail or mermaid fin. Sixteen parents and 9 swimming instructors also took part in the research which involved swimming skills’ assessments and surveys.

The study found that the majority of the children experienced an average decrease of 70% in their swimming ability while using mermaid fins and a 60% decrease in their swimming ability while using mermaid tails. Younger children experienced greater difficulty than those in older age groups.

The RLSSWA said the study provides vital evidence that proves the danger these pool toy products can pose to children in water.

“Children are the greatest risk group for drownings in WA and any product that further increases this risk is a major concern. The study highlights the extent to which mermaid tails and fins reduce a child’s ability to swim by making it significantly more difficult for children to float, restricting their movement and increasing tiredness – factors that could easily lead to a drowning tragedy,” Senior Manager Health Promotion and Research Lauren Nimmo said.

“These products are particularly popular with young children, however, parents need to be aware of the increased risk they place on children and consider their child’s age and swimming ability before use. While we don’t encourage the use of these pool toy products in the interests of drowning prevention, we believe the results of the study provide evidence upon which we can make recommendations to Australian consumers to make them safer to use.

“The study gives us a strong foundation to create safety guidelines for the use of mermaid tails and fins relating to the child’s age and swimming ability, while further emphasising the necessity for close supervision at all times regardless of age or swimming ability.”

The report into the review of mermaid tail and fin products recommends:

  • Mermaid Tail products are appropriate for children seven years or older or for children at Swim and Survive Stage 6 (can swim 50 metres freestyle, float on front and back, scull on back and tread water)
  • Mermaid Fin products are not appropriate for children under the age of 10 years due to their limited strength and fitting issues with the products regularly slipping off
  • Children should be directly supervised by a responsible adult at all times while wearing either tails or fins
  • The products should only be used in controlled environments such as home swimming pools
  • Aquatic centres should develop policies regarding the use of these products and implement them, with staff to be given information about their use and have a role to educate parents visiting the centre
  • Safety messages and warnings highlighting the dangers, age restrictions and stressing the importance of supervision be displayed at points of sale and incorporated into packaging
  • Community safety campaigns to raise awareness among parents, product manufacturers and retailers

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said, in light of the study’s findings, parents and guardians must carefully consider whether these products are appropriate for their children to use.

“While we knew that swimming ability would obviously be affected by wearing mermaid tails or fins, we didn’t know to what extent. Now we know that the effect is significant and the drowning risk is greatly increased, we can caution the children’s parents and supervisors so they can make informed decisions as consumers,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Consumer Protection expressed concern about these products two years ago after a video from the United States that went viral on social media showed a little girl getting stuck upside down in her family’s backyard pool when using her mermaid tail for the first time. She was rescued by her mother who luckily was close-by, but this could have ended very differently if an adult had not been present.

“This study found that mermaid tails in particular were very popular and 75 per cent of the young participants said they would use them again. So it’s important that safety information is provided with the product and to the community generally to prevent any drownings.”

The “Review of Mermaid Tail and Fin Products” report can be downloaded from the RLSSWA website. General product safety information is available at www.productsafety.gov.au and enquiries can be made to Consumer Protection by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

Child swimming with Mermaid Tail
Child swimming with Mermaid Tail, by Alan Hynd
Child swimming with Mermaid Tail.

 

Two children wearing mermaid tails
Two children wearing mermaid tails, by Alan Hynd
Two children wearing mermaid tails.
Rubber mermaid monofin
Rubber mermaid monofin, by Alan Hynd
Rubber mermaid monofin.

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Media Contacts: Alan Hynd, Consumer Protection (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
18 Jan 2018

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