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Feature Story

July 2018


CPSC Asks for Vigilance to Prevent Child Drowning

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By Deborah Vence

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported in May that fatal child drowning incidents in swimming pools that involve children younger than 5 have not increased much from last year's reports.

However, fatal and nonfatal child incidents in pools and spas continue to pose a public health risk across the United States. Ann Marie Buerkle, the CPSC's acting chairman, is urging vigilance while children are in and around the water this summer.

"While it is promising that the drowning rate did not increase, there are still too many children who drown each year in pools and spas across the country," Buerkle said. "These incidents are preventable. As a mother, grandmother and registered nurse, I raised my kids, and now my grandkids, with a respect for water. Swimming should be a fun way for families to be active, as long as everyone knows how to pool safely."

Buerkle also emphasized the importance of parents and caregivers following the CPSC Pool Safely campaign's water safety steps that can help prevent drowning tragedies. Constant adult supervision; as well as four-sided fencing; knowing how to perform CPR and teaching children how to swim all are critical ways to continue the decline in child drownings.

What's more, the latest data from the CPSC shows that there were 351 reported fatal child drownings in pools and spas in 2015 involving children younger than 15. Of those 351 reported fatal child drownings in 2015, 266 (76 percent) involved children younger than 5.

Other key findings include:

  • 73 percent of hospital emergency-room-treated nonfatal drowning injuries from 2015 through 2017 involved children younger than 5.
  • Male children younger than 15 had twice as many fatal drownings as female children of the same age.
  • From 2015 through 2017 an estimated 6,400 children younger than 15 years old reportedly were treated in hospital emergency rooms for nonfatal drowning injuries in pools or spas.
  • Between 2015 and 2017, residential locations made up 74 percent of reported fatal drowning incidents, and at least 45 percent of reported nonfatal drowning incidents for children younger than 15.
  • In addition, residential locations dominated reported incidents involving victims younger than 5, with 54 percent of nonfatal drowning injuries among that age group from 2015 through 2017, and 85 percent for fatal drownings from 2013 through 2015, all occurring at a residence.
  • The majority of the estimated hospital emergency-room-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries for 2015 through 2017, and the reported fatal drownings for 2013 through 2015, were associated with pools (versus spas).

The CPSC also released an updated report on suction entrapment incidents in swimming pools, spas and whirlpool bathtubs. Key findings include the following: Since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act went into effect in December 2008, there have been no reported fatalities involving a child being entrapped by a suction outlet cover in a public pool or spa.


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