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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 02:15 GMT 03:15 UK
TV shows 'linked to pond drownings'
Canal drownings fell
The number of children drowning in canals fell
Gardening programmes on television may be partly to blame for a sharp rise in the number of children drowning in garden ponds, researchers have suggested.

A study found that while the overall number of children drowning in the UK had fallen over a 10 year period, the number of deaths caused by children falling into ponds had almost doubled.

The researchers said the rise might be due to an increased number of water features in gardens - perhaps inspired by TV gardening shows.

The team, from the University of Wales College of Medicine, the Royal Life Saving Society, and the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents, compared statistics for deaths by drowning in children aged up to 14 in 1988-9 and 1998-9.

The rise in the number of drownings in garden ponds may be due to an increase in the number of water features in gardens

Research team led by Professor Jo Sibert
They looked at drownings in baths, garden ponds, domestic pools, private and public pools, rivers, canals, lakes and the sea.

In total, 104 children drowned in 1998-9, compared with 149 in 1988-9.

In all categories, except garden ponds, there were as many or fewer deaths in 1998-9 compared to 10 years earlier.

Eleven children drowned in garden ponds in 1988-9, but this figure rose to 21 a decade later.

Three times more boys than girls drowned during both periods, and autistic children were particularly at risk, the researchers found.

They said drownings in hotel and apartment pools abroad were still of major concern, and called on safety organisations and holiday companies to address the problem.

They also called for detailed data on deaths by drowning to be collected routinely by government statistics offices in the UK.

'Real threat'

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers led by Professor Jo Sibert, said: "The rise in the number of drownings in garden ponds may be due to an increase in the number of water features in gardens, perhaps as a result of popular garden programmes on television.

"Garden ponds remain a real threat to toddlers and should be covered or fenced.

"The reduction in drownings in domestic pools may be due to fewer pools being installed and used and some pools having safety fences and gates."

Roger Vincent, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, told BBC News Online: "We would like to see garden shows putting in advice wherever they can."

But he said the overall rate of drownings depended on many factors, including the weather.

In hot summers, people are more likely to swim in potentially dangerous waters, such as canals and lakes.

He added: "With garden ponds, no matter what safety precautions have been taken, children find ways around them."

Mr Vincent warned the majority of pond accidents happened in other people's gardens, either because safety precautions were not in place or because parents were unaware of the existence of a pond.

Last week, TV gardener Charlie Dimmock spoke out on how to ensure garden ponds and water features were safe in a statement from the Royal Life Saving Society.

She said: "The first thing to remind people is that gardens are dangerous places and it's important to make them as safe as possible.

"I'm not saying not to have ponds or water features.

"Children need to learn about water safety, much as they have to learn other things in life, such as how to cross roads, and ponds can also provide excellent educational wildlife environments.

"What I am saying is to think about your garden, plan it properly, make it safe, and most of all, don't forget to enjoy it."

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