The New York City Health Department Bans Competitive Breath-Holding in Public Pools


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene passed a resolution banning competitive breath-holding at all “bathing establishments” run by the city. Though outdoors pools in the city have been closed since Labor Day, there are still 12 pools in recreation centers that will now be required to police for kids and adults dunking each other.

Passed in early September, the ban is not some sinister plot to sap the fun out of pool days. Lives have been lost due to excessive breath-holding in New York’s pools.

In a high-profile drowning in 2011, a lifeguard and a Navy SEAL trainee died while performing breath-holding exercises in a Staten Island public pool. Jonathan Proce, 21, of Queens and Bodhan Vitenko, 21, of Manhattan were found face-down in three feet of water at a pool in Tompkinsville after attempting to meet what they thought was a Navy SEALs breath-holding requirement (no such requirement exists.)

The central language of the new resolution reads:

Prolonged or repetitive breath-holding can be deadly. Such activities are permitted only when appropriately supervised by qualified staff, as set forth in the operator’s pool safety plan. No intentional hyperventilation or underwater competitive breath-holding should be allowed.

The new resolution also insists on new signage alerting patrons to the dangers of holding one’s breath for too long, in case they weren’t already obvious.

On the next page is DOH’s entire resolution.

Breathing Ban


Archive Highlights