Drownings Increasing Among Children Under 15, CPSC Warns

According to new government data, there continue to be an alarming number of fatal and nonfatal child drowning accidents throughout the U.S. each year, which are all considered preventable.

In a report (PDF) released on June 8, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced child drownings remain the leading cause of unintentional death among young children ages one to four.

According to the data, 2018 saw a higher number of fatal drownings, 404, among children under 15 years of age when compared to 2017, which had 395 fatal drownings. The findings indicate 75% of child drowning victims were under five years old.

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The study indicates most fatal drownings occurred in pools, with only three percent of cases occurring in spas. Almost all spa drownings involved children under five years old.

When it comes to more recent data, the annual drowning and submersion report shows a decrease of nonfatal drowning injuries from 2019 (6,300 injuries) to 2020 (5,800 injuries), however, the CPSC indicates those changes are not statistically significant, and last years numbers were likely influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal safety officials suggest the drop in child drowning accidents last year was likely the result of limitations on summer activities, including swimming, and should not be seen as a result of any increase in safety or safe practices. In fact, almost certainly due to the pandemic, far fewer children took swimming lessons last year.

“As we enter the summer months, parents and caregivers must be mindful of the pandemic’s impact on their children’s swimming ability and water safety skills,” CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler said in a press release. “CPSC’s latest report confirms that most child drownings involve children under the age of five, whose limited experience around the water due to recent social distancing restrictions could put them at greater risk of drowning. With fewer children attending swimming lessons during the past year, it is critical to refresh these and others the life-saving skills, while practicing increased vigilance both anywhere children are swimming and during non-swim times as well.”

The CPSC estimates approximately 390 pool and spa related deaths occur each year, with most happening between Memorial Day and Labor Day, since this is the most popular times for individuals who own pools at home to open them up for the warmer summer months, and for public pools to open up to communities. Virtually all of these deaths are avoidable, according to safety officials.

To help combat the increase in fatal drowning incidents, the CPSC announced Pool Safety Grants last month as an effort to implement educational programs in areas to reduce the amount of drowning deaths.

The CPSC suggests parents and caregivers follow Pool Safely’s simple steps to help prevent fatal and nonfatal drownings and keep children safer.

  • A child should not be left unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher.
  • Parents should use a barrier to prevent young, unattended children from wandering into the pool without supervision.
  • Parents should learn CPR and teach their children how to swim properly to ensure safety.
  • Parents should also keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments.

The CSPC urges 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.


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