Commissioner's blog: Only use popular air-filled loungers on dry land
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With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard
Air-filled loungers were one of the must-have Christmas presents for 2016 and had been heavily promoted via social media and at pop-up stalls in shopping centres. Photos or videos indicate the products are able to be used in water BUT two near-misses in Australian home swimming pools during the festive period prompted drowning risk warnings from a number of agencies including Consumer Protection WA.
The inflatable loungers are lightweight fabric tubes (sometimes plastic-lined), which you fill with air using a fast side-to-side motion, to make a temporary chair or bed. They have been around since 2014 and although users can become frustrated learning how to inflate them as quickly and easily as seen on YouTube or during live demonstrations by salespeople, there had been no reported safety issues.
That was until two separate viral Facebook posts about deflation of the loungers around people lying on them in swimming pools. A New South Wales woman posted an image of her father, said to be taken moments before he was nearly suffocated in the water and a Melbourne paramedic said her 12-year-old daughter had almost drowned when she became entangled in one.
Consumer agencies across Australia are now investigating the dangers associated with these products and strongly recommending they are NOT used in water.
The marketing of these loungers, under a range of different brand names, often shows them being used for camping, picnics or sunbathing poolside or at the beach and we know people take them to outdoor cinemas. To our knowledge, use of the products on dry-land has not resulted in any accidents and presents minimal risk. They just need to be reinflated every two to six hours depending on the quality. Prices are often below $40 but there are some that retail for as much as $100.
Our concerns relate to retailers selling this product as a flotation device for use in a pool, river or even on the ocean. We believe there may be a risk of unexpected deflation and the potential for the clingy material to envelop a person’s face and body, preventing them from swimming to the surface and even causing suffocation.
While there have been no incidents reported in WA and we have received no complaints about the safety of these products, the recent near drowning incidents in the eastern states are enough to make us issue this warning. There have been far too many drowning deaths in Australia already this summer and if asking the community to stop using these loungers on water saves even one life, it’s worth it.
Australia’s product safety regulators are making enquiries with relevant suppliers, international product safety regulators and others to help inform and implement an appropriate response. However, until further investigations are carried out and as a precautionary measure, we urge owners of these inflatable air loungers not to use them in water. Adults are advised to take steps to remove inflatable air loungers from locations in or around water including pools and to ensure they are not used by children as flotation devices.
WA consumers who may have been involved in an incident regarding this product should contact Consumer Protection by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
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