New report finds steady rise in fatal child drownings
A new report released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) highlights the need for continued vigilance in combating child drownings, particularly as many families prepare to spend more time at home this summer to curb the spread of COVID-19. Child drownings remain the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years old.
CPSC’s new data shows that there were, on average, 379 reported pool-or-spa-related fatal drownings per year for 2015 through 2017, involving children younger than 15 years old. Annual fatal drowning rates increased gradually between 2015 and 2017, with a spike of 395 reported fatalities involving children younger than 15 years old in 2017. Residential locations, such as a child’s home, a family or friend’s house or a neighbor’s residence, made up 71 percent of the reported fatal drowning incidents.
“Water safety vigilance remains as important as ever, especially in light of ongoing public health concerns and community restrictions related to COVID-19,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “Our latest report confirms that most child drownings take place at home during the summer months. This year, with more families spending time at home, the delayed opening of many public pools, and a pause on many traditional group swimming lessons, I urge everyone to take critical safety steps to reverse the upward trend in fatal child drownings.”
Children younger than 5 years old accounted for 75 percent of child drownings between 2015 and 2017, 56 percent of which were attributed to a gap in adult supervision.
In addition to fatal drownings, CPSC’s new data shows that there were an estimated 6,700 pool-or-spa-related, hospital emergency department-treated, nonfatal child drowning injuries each year for 2017 through 2019. This is the equivalent of about 18 children every day, 365 days a year.
Parents and caregivers can follow Pool Safely’s simple steps to help prevent both fatal and nonfatal drownings and keep children safer no matter where they are spending time around the water this season, and particularly during an extended time at home:
- Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone or be otherwise distracted. In addition to pools and spas, this warning includes bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds, and fountains.
- If you own a pool or spa, install layers of protection, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
- Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults. Many communities offer online CPR training.
- Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
- Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers.
- Visit the Pool Safely Kids’ Corner to keep children entertained and educated with virtual water safety games and activities.
- Take the Pool Safely Pledge as a family, and find customized water safety resources using the Pool Safely Safer Water Information Match (S.W.I.M.) tool.
Additional health and safety considerations for visiting public pools during COVID-19 are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here.
In 2019, CPSC also released an updated report on suction entrapment incidents in swimming pools, spas and whirlpool bathtubs. The key finding is that since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act went into effect in December 2008, there have been zero reported fatalities involving a child being entrapped on a suction outlet cover in a public pool or spa.
You can read the full CPSC drowning and entrapment reports by visiting PoolSafely.gov.
Note: CPSC’s report addresses nonfatal drownings for the period 2017 through 2019 and fatal drownings for the period 2015 through 2017, reflecting a lag in the reporting of fatal drowning statistics.
Pool Safely, a national public education campaign supporting the requirements of Section 1407 of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, works with collaborators around the country to reduce child drownings, nonfatal drownings and entrapment incidents in swimming pools and spas. Parents, caregivers and the media are encouraged to visit: PoolSafely.gov or to follow Pool Safely on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for vital safety information regarding the prevention of child drownings in and around pools and spas.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually.