Objective. To describe deaths due to drowning that involve the use of an infant bathtub seat or ring.
Design. Case series, cases reported to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission data systems.
Setting. United States, 1983–1995.
Main Outcome Measures. Death in which an infant bathtub seat or ring was in use at the time of death and the primary cause of death was drowning.
Results. Thirty-two drowning deaths involving bath seats/rings were identified and investigated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission over a 13-year period. The majority of deaths (84%) occurred from 1991–1995, with more than 50% occurring in the 2 most recent years. The victims' ages at the time of the incident ranged from 5 to 15 months with a mean and median age of 8 months. In more than 90% of incidents there was a reported lapse in adult supervision, with a mean reported lapse of 6 minutes and a median lapse of 4 minutes. Focus groups with parents found that while making bathing somewhat easier, bath seats/rings are useful for a relatively short time period, as the child rapidly outgrows the product. They also suggested that care givers are more likely to leave a child unattended in the tub if one of these products is in use.
Conclusion. Bath seats/rings are associated with an increasing number of reported infant drowning deaths. The use of such products may increase the risk of drowning among infants by increasing the likelihood that an infant will be left alone in the tub. However, in the absence of exposure data in a suitable comparison group it is difficult to assess the overall risk inherent in their use. Educational efforts reinforcing the need for continuous adult supervision of infants and children around all bodies of water should now also include a reminder that bath seats/rings are not safety items and are not a substitute for adult supervision. Infants and toddlers should never be left in the bathtub unsupervised, even for brief moments.