DENVER - A new study finds that 31 children are hospitalized each day after playing in an inflatable bounce house. That's a child every 46 minutes across the United States, according to researchers charting an "epidemic increase" in injuries to young kids in recent years.
As trips to the emergency room rise, a recent CALL7 investigation found that half of all U.S. states, including Colorado, do not provide any oversight of inflatable-amusements businesses. Bounce house operators in the state are not required to carry insurance, adhere to specific safety protocols or to report injuries.
The study, published online today in "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, provides new details about the hazards of bounce houses, moonwalks, jumping castles and other inflatables that are rented for parties and found in carnivals and recreation complexes.
Looking at more than two decades of data, researchers tracked an "alarming" number of head injuries: 7 percent of which resulted in a concussion.
The vast majority of injuries were fractures, strains or sprains, many caused by falls, collisions, failed stunts, deflations and even kids being bounced out of the structures. In other cases, bounce houses were improperly anchored outdoors and blown over by strong winds, causing harm.
Responding to an incident where a child was nearly suffocated when a bounce house suddenly deflated, state Sen. Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat, introduced Senate Bill 11-075. The 2011 proposal called for bounce house businesses to register with the state, carry insurance and pay a fee to support inspections. But the bill was killed in a committee with at least one lawmaker claiming such a law would be unenforceable.
"I'm a firm believer that this state should be regulating these kinds of businesses," Guzman said.
Researchers in "Pediatrics" did not know why injuries between 1995 and 2010 rose 15 fold, but noted bounce houses may simply be growing in popularity while questioning their design. Researchers compared bounce house play to trampoline play, another dangerous activity, calling on leaders to act swiftly.
"More than one-third of injured children in this study were under 6 years old, which is the age group for which the [Consumer Product Safety Commission] recommends against trampoline usage," the authors wrote. "In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed its recommendation against any home or other recreational usage of trampolines and recommended use only as part of a structured training program with appropriate safety measures employed. Policy makers must consider whether the similarities observed in bouncer-related injuries warrant a similar response."