In season of higher risk for kids, cautions about mowers and pool chemicals

dangersign-192x300As the nation slips into summer and the statistical 100 deadliest days for kids, there are some timely reminders about keeping youngsters safer around swimming pools and the chemicals used with them and protecting them from the harms of riding mowers when the devices are run in reverse.

The Red Cross, of course, reminds that “10 people die each day from unintentional drowning, and on average two of them are younger than 14. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages one to four than any other cause except birth defects. And among those 1-14, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries.”

The safety group, which urges parents to supervise kids closely near water and get them swimming lessons and instruction in ways to prevent water-borne mishaps, underscores that little kids drown most often at home — in pools, hot tubs, and spas, but also buckets, bath seats, wells, cisterns, septic tanks, decorative ponds, and toilets. Youngsters 5 and older drown more often in ponds, lakes, and the ocean.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as part of its annual summer awareness efforts, has warned swimmers, parents, and pool owners and operators that “exposure to chemicals that keep swimming pool waters clear and germ-free [send] an average of 4,535 people a year to the emergency room for treatment,” the Washington Post reported.

Half such incidents occur at home, injuring in more than a third of the cases teens and children.

Grownups need to ensure that chemicals are secured and used properly, so kids don’t get poisoned or gassed by pool-related substances they get exposed to by opening containers out of idle curiosity, or, for example, by getting let into waters too soon after cleaning.

Two-thirds of such accidents occur between Memorial and Labor days, says the CDC, which also has issued handy summer health guidelines about keeping adults and youngsters safe from the sun, biting insects, bad food, and in seasonal labors.

FairWarning — a nonprofit news organization based in Southern California that focuses on public health, consumer and environmental issues — has put out a timely dig into a product’s unsafe operation and design. It says that dozens of Americans each year, 70% of them 5 and younger, suffer injuries serious enough to require medical care after they have been backed over by drivers of riding lawn mowers.

The painful, costly, and disfiguring mower back-overs can be crushing for parents, dads mostly, because they know it is their own accidental conduct that injures their beloved kids, too many of whom are running around and racing to be near and surprise daddy, FairWarning reported.

The riding mowers’ design contributes to such injuries, the group says, because makers disregarded a simple option that could safeguard pedestrians nearby: Manufacturers could design mowers, so when operators put them in reverse, their cutting blades stop. That would force users to pause, look behind them, and then to push a button or flip a switch to re-engage the mower blades for the chore of cutting the grass. The few seconds this takes could save drivers and pedestrians a lot of misery. But customers found it inconvenient, and makers, not wanting to lose business, discarded the safety feature — notably because there was no outside pressure, such as from a regulatory agency, to protect the public.

In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the injuries that can be afflicted on babies and children, including harms due to defective and dangerous products. My colleagues and I also with many drivers, their passengers, and their loved ones hurt in car, truck, and motorcycle crashes. Even with year-round school schedules common these days, the lazy, hazy days of summer mean many kids and young people will be out of class, playing — and we hope staying out of trouble and being safe.

We need to do everything we can in this statistically risky time to ensure they stay safe while walking, riding, and driving. We need to see they don’t abuse alcohol and drugs, that they don’t take up unhealthy habits like smoking or vaping, and they use electronic devices reasonably and responsibly. Please don’t let youthful drivers text or get behind the wheel while sleepy or under the influence.

Though fewer of them get jobs during the summer, if they do so, give them appropriate space but do check in to ensure they have the right tools and training to be safe and well, including if they’re taking care of pools or lawns.

Cautions from agencies like the CDC or nonprofits like the Red Cross, FairWarning, or AAA may seem corny to some, maybe even cause for teen eye-rolls. But timely and needed nudges like these can be helpful.

They also beat by a mile the, “Huh, who, us?” positions taken by product developers in a major toy maker and some regulators who are supposed to be keeping kids from harm: The Washington Post deserves credit for digging into Fisher Price and its Rock’n’Play sleeping sling for babies. Only after a shaming campaign by pediatricians and Consumer Reports did the company and the Consumer Products Safety Commission decide that 30 infant deaths attributable to the device warranted public warnings at least, if not a recall.

The company has voluntarily done the right thing and yanked the product. But the newspaper delved into its development, finding that the company made scant checks with experts about the danger the device posed, allowing babies to sleep on a slant, instead of the research- and expert-recommended flat, unobstructed surface. Babies can get into respiratory distress quickly and die if they aren’t dozing flat and level. Fisher Price might have learned that with even cursory checks. Its only known such cursory discussion involved its own consultant, a doctor with a sketchy record. The CPSC, meantime, caved into company whining and created a special category in which to consider oversight of the popular device. That meant that its risks long were ignored by regulators — until doctors and the consumer groups complained.

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