EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Bounce houses are a Borderland staple for family parties, carnivals and even wedding receptions, but a recent study co-authored by a UTEP professor shows they can be dangerous too.

According to the study, at least 479 people have been injured and 28 people have died in bounce house accidents worldwide because of weather-related events since 2000.

“I became fascinated by the phenomenon a dozen years ago, when one weekend afternoon I noticed the biggest dust devils I’ve ever seen,” said Thomas E. Gill, Ph.D., professor of environmental science at the University of Texas at El Paso.

 “When I got home and turned on the news, the lead story was about a bounce house with three kids inside that had been picked up by another dust devil and was sent flying over several houses before coming down, injuring all of the children,” Gill added.

The study, which was recently published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, found more than 130 bounce house accidents since 2000. But the research, led by John Knox, Ph.D., professor of geography at the University of Georgia, cautions that these estimates are likely an undercount.

These weather-related injuries are in addition to an estimated 10,000 emergency room visits in the United States each year because of bound house-related accidents that result in broken bones, muscle sprains and concussions.

The study also found that only half of U.S. states have specific laws and regulations governing safe bounce house use and 17 states have no guidelines or specifically exclude inflatables like bounce houses from regulation.

Many of the wind-related accidents happened on what seemed to be pleasant weather days, according to the research. 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.

“These bounce houses aren’t something to set up and then forget to stake them into the ground,” Knox said. “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.”

Nineteen states cite American Society of Testing and Materials standards in their regulations governing bounce houses. The ASTM sets a maximum wind gust speed of 25 mph unless the bounce house has been secured by a professional engineer. The standards also require a meteorologically savvy attendant to be on-site for commercial bounce houses.

Of the 132 incidents in the report, more than one of every five happened during wind speeds lower than those deemed unsafe by ASTM standards.

The researchers spent a decade researching wind-related incidents involving bounce houses. They used this information to set up a website to document their findings and provide tips for consumers.