Mermaid tail toy safety warning

21 December 2015 | Popular kids' toy not safe without supervision.

Give fins the flick when it comes to safety

As summer heats up, consumers are being warned about the potential danger of mermaid tails, a water play product that binds a child’s legs and acts as a flipper so the child can swim "like a mermaid". 

The warning, from NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe and CHOICE, comes in the wake of a video from the US showing a little girl trying out her mermaid tail in a backyard pool and apparently getting stuck upside down before being rescued by her mother.

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Supervision is key

Although the aquatic toys are topping Christmas wish lists across the country, they're not suitable for very young children. 

According Stowe the products usually come with an age recommendation of six years plus, advice that the child needs to be a good swimmer, must be supervised and may need a lesson in how to use the tail, and along with a warning that the tails are for use in swimming pools of a certain depth and not shallow water. 

CHOICE has found products being sold online through local and international retailers ranging in price from $20 to $700.

CHOICE's head of media Tom Godfrey echoed the commissioner's advice, saying it was particularly concerning that these products are being marketed to children as young as three years of age. "With both eBay and Amazon offering mermaid tails for sale to very young children, we're keen to remind parents that although mermaids are creatures of fantasy the risk presented by these water toys is very real. The video from the United States is quite harrowing and should be enough to encourage all parents to be vigilant about water safety this summer." 

Young kids most at risk

Mr Stowe and Mr Godfrey urged consumers to choose carefully before buying a mermaid tail this Christmas. "Even if your child is a strong swimmer, they may get into difficulty underwater when wearing one of these toys," they said.

The latest annual Royal Life Saving Society drowning report showed 90 (or 34%) of the 266 Australian drowning fatalities in 2013/14 occurred in NSW.

Children aged under five account for the largest number of drowning deaths in swimming pools, particularly home swimming pools – 14 children from that age group lost their lives through swimming pool drowning in 2013/14.

Further advice on how to prevent drowning is available on the Royal Life Saving Society website.