Linton says he's grown familiar with bounce house injuries from his time in the ER at Union Memorial. Over the years he says he's treated a few concussions and broken bones kids have gotten in bounce houses. But he had no idea so many were getting hurt, saying, "Overall I assumed because these things are available out to the public that they were overall pretty safe."
But a study released late last year in the journal Pediatrics shows that's not the case. Tracy Mehan, who was part of the research team that put together the study says, "We suspected the number of injuries had been increasing but we had no idea it was this dramatic."
Mehan, who works for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio says the inflatable injury numbers reflect an epidemic. Her team looked at kids treated in emergency rooms for bounce house injuries. Between 1995 and 2010, the numbers spiked 1500% with more than 60,000 kids sent to the ER nationwide, many of them with broken bones and injuries to the head and neck.
In 2010 alone, the numbers reflect as many as 30 kids a day being taken to the emergency room, according to Mehan, who says, "No one really knew the magnitude of the problem. Now that we know the alarming increase that is happening, it's time to take action."
The Center for Injury Research and Policy is calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to create nationwide guidelines and recommendations for bounce houses and other inflatables. Right now, there aren't any national guidelines.
Instead, the CPSC points to industry standards set by international group ASTM , which sets thousands of accepted standards for products ranging from crayons to lifeboats. Jim Seay, President of Baltimore-based Premier Rides , chairs the ASTM committee that oversees standards created for the inflatable industry. He says, "I think the bounce house industry has a lot of people who are extremely passionate about safety."
ASTM Committee F-24 has developed standards for how inflatables should be made and used with the help of industry reps, consumers and manufacturers. The committee meets at least twice a year to adapt standards as trends change, but their standards are a baseline, not a requirement, for the states that choose to use them. Rob Gavel, Supervisor for Amusement Ride Safety with Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation says, "Many states have no regulation at all. They do not consider a moon bounce an amusement attraction."
But Maryland does see inflatables as an attraction. Bounce houses that are open to the public, in a county fair or strip mall for example, are regulated and inspected by DLLR on an annual basis. Gavel says 213 registered businesses with more than 3,200 inflatables are on their radar for yearly inspections and spot checks. A bounce house that's regulated has to display its certification for you to view.
Owners get those certificates after inspections done by a team of eight DLLR inspectors. They make sure rules that govern everything from supervision to staking down the inflatables are followed. He tells ABC2, "It's about trying to ensure the public's safety as best we can and in order to do that we want to be out there, eyes on, making sure people are complying."