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Lack of bouncy castle regulations leaves children vulnerable to wind-related weather events

Alan Flurry

A popular, easily rentable party feature could be putting tens of thousands of children at risk, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

The study found at least 479 people were injured and 28 died worldwide in more than 130 bounce house accidents due to weather events since 2000. But the researchers caution that these estimates are likely an undercount.

These injuries are on top of an estimated 10,000 ER visits in the U.S. each year because of bounce house-related accidents that regularly result in broken bones, muscle sprains and concussions.

“These bounce houses aren’t something to set up and then forget to stake them into the ground,” said John Knox, lead author of the study and a geography professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “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 wind-related accidents happened on what seemed to be good weather days, according to the research: a cool and sunny day after a cold front with clear skies, a hot but calm day that triggers a dust devil or a nice summer day with a thunderstorm somewhere off in the distance. More than 80 of the 132 events identified by the study were caused by cold fronts or post-cold front conditions, dust devils and overhead or distant thunderstorms.

Also known as bouncy houses, magic castles, jumping balloons or bounce castles, the portable playhouses are common fixtures at birthday parties, carnivals and even wedding receptions. They cost less than $100 to rent on average in the U.S. and are an easy and fun way to keep kids (and some adults) entertained for hours.

But the study found it didn’t take high wind speeds to tip the inflatable playhouses over, loft them into the air or send them bouncing along the ground for yards, often while people were still inside.

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The department of geography is aptly described as 'the world under one roof' and this research is yet another data point backing that assessment. Congratulations Dr. Knox and colleagues at UTEP for undertaking this expansive study incorporating weather, public safety and regulatory policy. Terrific work.

Image via Getty Images.


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