Bounce houses may look like safe fun — but they are a more dangerous thrill than many realize, a new study shows.
Since the year 2000, 28 people have died and at least 479 others have been injured when gusts of wind have caused the inflatable amusements to be blown away, according to a new study that examined the perils of bounce houses.
The researchers, from the University of Georgia, said a lack of regulation and oversight of the rentable inflatable castles across the country is the main factor putting countless children at risk.
“These bounce houses aren’t something to set up and then forget to stake them into the ground,” said geography professor John Knox, a lead author of the study.
“What could go wrong? The answer is that it could blow away in winds that are not anywhere near severe levels. Some of these cases were in purely clear skies.”
Many of the 132 bounce house accidents studied by researchers happened on days where the weather appeared to be calm before a cold front or distant storm brought unexpected gusts.
Just earlier this summer, five children were hospitalized on Long Island when a giant inflatable slide they were playing on fell over in the town of Wyandanch.
“The bounce house lifted up, and when it lifted up, you saw him go over first, another little girl holding on for dear life,” one mom told WABC. “It was horrible.”
Less than half of the US states require bounce houses to be staked into the ground or weighed down with sandbags, which could prevent most of the freak accidents, researchers found.
“The regulatory landscape is all over the place from one state to another,” Knox said. “From our perspective, this isn’t good enough. Bounce houses need to be attended by someone who is weather-wise and can recognize when winds are at an unsafe level.”
Regulations in 19 states cite the American Society for Testing and Materials standards, which require an unsecured bounce house to be off limits when wind gusts exceed 25 miles per hour, according to the study.
However, more than half of the accidents reviewed by researchers occurred when the wind strength was below that threshold.
“There was a case in Southern California where one of the bounce houses got picked up by the wind and dropped in the middle of a highway with a boy still inside the playhouse,” said study author Thomas Gill, and a professor of environmental science at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“When the winds get to be too much, these bounce houses need not only to be evacuated but also deflated. There have been cases where a bounce house was empty, but it blew away and struck a bystander.”
In addition to wind-related tragedies, there are about 10,000 annual emergency room visits in the US caused by bounce house injuries like broken bones, muscle sprains and concussions, researchers found.
The study marked the first time academic researchers had looked into wind-related bounce house accidents, according to the university.