MERMAID tails and fins reduce a child’s ability to swim and float, restrict their movement and increase tiredness – factors that could easily lead to a drowning tragedy, according to a Perth-based study.
The study found that the majority of the children experienced an average decrease of 70 per cent in their swimming ability while using mermaid fins and a 60 per cent decrease in their swimming ability while using mermaid tails.
Younger children experienced greater difficulty than those in older age groups.
Conducted by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia (RLSSWA) and funded by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the study 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.
The study recommended age restrictions and increased supervision for their use.
RLSSWA senior manager health promotion and research Lauren Nimmo said the study provided evidence that proved the danger the pool toys could 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,’’ she 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.’’
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.
Consumer Protection commissioner David Hillyard said the study found 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,’’ he said.
The Review of Mermaid Tail and Fin Products report can be downloaded from the RLSSWA website.