Drowning Report Shows Increase in Child Fatalities

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has released its annual drowning and submersion report. Focused on deaths and injuries for children under age 15, the report shows that fatal drownings for children increased 12% in 2021, the most recent year for which data are available, compared to 2020. Drowning remains the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4 years old, with a disproportionately higher risk for swimming-aged children in Black communities. 

CPSC’s report addresses nonfatal drownings for the period 2021 through 2023 and fatal drownings for the period 2019 through 2021, reflecting a lag in the reporting of fatal drowning statistics.

CPSC’s latest data show the following for children in the U.S. younger than 15 years of age: 

  • Between 2019 and 2021, there was an average of 358 pool- or spa-related fatal drownings reported per year, and 75% of those victims were younger than 5.
  • The number of fatal child drownings in 2021 was 380, a 12% increase from the 339 fatal drownings reported in the previous year.
  • Between 2021 and 2023, there was an average of 6,500 estimated pool- or spa-related, hospital emergency department (ED)-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries each year.

Additionally, the report highlighted specific drowning hazards for children under 5 years of age:

  • In 2023, 77% of all estimated pool- or spa-related, ED-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries involved children younger than 5 years of age. 
  • Between 2019 and 2021, there was an average of 269 pool- or spa-related fatal drownings for children under 5, roughly 75% of the total average number of fatal drownings for all children under 15. 

“Children can drown quickly and silently, and the increase in drownings for this age group is a sobering reminder of how prevalent these tragedies are,” said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric. “Parents and caregivers should never let their guard down around water, that means installing layers of protection, like fencing, alarms, pool covers and self-latching features to keep unsupervised kids from accessing the water.”

Where location was known, 81% of fatal drownings involving children under age 15 occurred in a residential setting, including at the victim’s home, or at the home of a family member, friend, or neighbor. 

The report also highlights the continuing trend of racial disparities in drowning fatalities. Out of the 71% of drowning fatalities involving children under age 15 whose race was specified, African-American children made up 23% of all drownings, higher than 15% of the population for that age.

For drowning fatalities among children aged 5 to 14, 45% of drowning deaths involved African-Americans where race was identified. These numbers highlight the importance of reaching historically excluded communities with water safety information and support.

You can read the full CPSC drowning and entrapment reports by visiting PoolSafely.gov.