Calls for crackdown on cold water immersion therapy after mother died
Calls for crackdown on cold water immersion therapy after mother, 39, died when her heart stopped while plunging into icy river at £200-a-season treat popular with celebrities
- Kellie Poole, 39, died when her heart stopped after entering the River Goyt
A senior coroner has called for a crackdown on the growing cold water immersion industry after a mother-of-three died while taking part in a session.
Peter Nieto warned of more tragic deaths as he said there is ‘very little oversight’ of companies providing the activity, in which participants plunge into water colder than 15C, that is growing increasingly popular in Britain.
His appeal comes after Kellie Poole, 39, died when her heart stopped after entering the freezing River Goyt in a £200 session at Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, in April 2022.
During an inquest, it emerged she had an undiagnosed heart condition which meant she was unable to recover when the cold water triggered it to fall out of rhythm, triggering a ‘sudden cardiac death’.
Although she was unaware of her heart abnormality, there is no ‘specific health and safety guidance’ that participants must be told or shown, the coroner for Derby and Derbyshire warned.
Kellie Poole died when her heart stopped after entering the River Goyt in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, in April 2022
Despite CPR being given and paramedics being called, Ms Poole tragically died at the scene in Buxworth in the Peak District
Cold water immersion involves participants immersing themselves in cold water to speed healing after an injury, ease joint and muscle pain, quicken recovery from exercise and is believed to have mental health benefits.
But the coroner has written to Health and Safety Executive calling for the practice – made popular by celebrities – to be regulated.
READ MORE: Mother, 39, who suffered cardiac arrest during cold water immersion session died from undiagnosed heart condition, coroner rules
During her two-day inquest in Chesterfield, it was heard Ms Poole, of Greater Manchester, complained of a headache after entering the 10.7C degree water at the session run by a company named Breatheolution, before falling in the river.
Despite the best efforts of those in attendance to revive her, she died on the river bank on April 25, 2022, from a ‘sudden cardiac death’.
In a Prevention of Future Deaths report, Mr Nieto revealed ‘matters giving rise to concern’ heard at Ms Poole’s inquest about the lack of regulation in the activity.
‘It appears that there is increasing public interest and participation in cold water immersion,’ he wrote.
‘Businesses have been established which offer led cold water immersion sessions and may offer other types of led activities such as breath work often in combination with the cold water immersion. As businesses they charge participants a fee for the sessions.
‘It is recognised that some people may experience an adverse physiological reaction to cold water immersion, which has the potential to be life-threatening.
‘Whilst many leisure or health focussed activities may carry risk, where these are provider led the general expectation must be that participants are informed of risks, have an expectation that reasonable safety measures are in place, and that the provider has suitable training and experience.’
Actor Stephen Graham is among the celebrities to have visited Breatheolution
The cold water camp is popular with celebrities and was previously visited by Coleen Rooney (pictured second from the right)
He criticised the lack of regulation and suggested the training of those leading the session should be ‘assured’ of quality.
READ MORE: Mother, 39, died after plunging into icy river at £200-a-season cold water therapy experience popular with celebrities as inquest hears her heart was ‘heavier than expected’ because she was obese
‘There seems to be very little oversight of these businesses in their provision of cold water immersion covering matters such as pre-session health advice or warnings, public liability insurance, training and experience of the session leader, first aid training and equipment, or written risk assessments,’ he added.
‘I am not aware of the issuing of specific health and safety guidance.’
Mr Nieto said although some sessions take place in water tanks, many take place in open water such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs – which are locations that ‘pose a risk’.
‘Session leaders may have undertaken some form of training, but I am not aware that the nature and quality of the training itself is regulated or quality assured,’ he continued.
‘There is no established UK member organisation for providers of cold water immersion, other than for ‘wild’ and open water swimming which is a distinct activity, and therefore no form of even voluntary self-regulation.
‘On my understanding the current limits of oversight of cold water immersion providers in effect means that these activities have not received guidance from the Health and Safety Executive or other appropriate bodies.
‘My investigation indicated that local authority environmental health departments are unclear whether they should and how they might monitor and oversee these providers.’
Addressing the Health and Safety Executive, he concluded: ‘In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action.’
He added that they were under a duty to respond by November 29.
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