Federal safety officials have released a new report that warns parents and caregivers about the importance of remaining vigilant while young children are in and around pools, as new data indicates that the number of fatal drownings involving children under the age of five continues to increase each year.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released updated child drowning figures today, finding the annual average of fatal drowning incidents involving children under five years of age spiked between 2016 and 2018, calling it a public health crisis.
Officials collected fatal and non-fatal drowning deaths related to public and private pools and spas from the CPSC’s National Electronics Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from 2015 through 2017, and compared the figures against to the most recent 2016 through 2018 data.
Annual nonfatal pool or spa drowning averages for 2015 through 2017 were recorded at 6,400 hospital and emergency department visits for children under the age of 15, while 4,700 of those injuries involved children younger than five years of age.
The 2016 through 2018 annual average was recorded at 6,600 hospital and emergency department visits for children under the age of 15, with 74% of the reports involving children under five years of age.
The report indicates pool and spa related fatal drownings were found to be on the rise as well, with 348 recorded in 2015 and 389 recorded in 2016. More than 70% of the recorded fatalities involved children under the age of five years old.
While reviewing the cause of the pool or spa related injury or fatality reports, researchers found approximately 59% of the incidents were attributed to a gap in adult supervision, including the adult losing contact or knowledge of the whereabouts of the child. Eight percent of the reports indicated barrier compromises or circumvention where the child was able to bypass gates. The remaining explanations involved parents or guardians stating they last seen the child near or around the pool or could not explain how the child was able to access the pool or spa unsupervised.
Researchers found most fatal and non-fatal drowning reports were recorded in the month of June, just as the summer swimming months begin and children are out of school.
The World Health Organization previously placed drowning as the third leading cause of unintentional deaths worldwide, averaging roughly 360,000 each year. In the U.S. alone, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of one and four years old.
The CSPC is urging parents and caregivers who own pools or spas, and those who visit public pools, to follow Pool Safely’s simple steps to keep children safe around water.
Earlier this year, CDC officials reviewed data on emergency department visits related to pool chemical injuries from 2008 through 2017, and found the top diagnosis was poisoning due to breathing in fumes, vapors, or gases when opening chlorine containers or spilling liquid chemicals. Pool chemical problems overall resulted in an average of 4,535 emergency room visits every year over that time period.
The report indicated many injuries occurred when people handled pool chemicals without using proper protective equipment, such as goggles, when pool chemicals were added just before people went swimming, and when children gained access to pool chemicals that were not properly secured.