CPSC Report Warns Child Drownings in U.S. Remain High

Child drowning rates have continued unabated for several years despite education campaigns aimed at avoiding what experts say are preventable deaths in pools and spas.

As schools throughout the U.S. enter summer break, and the weather continues to heat up, federal safety officials are warning parents about the importance of remaining vigilant while young children are in and around pools, as new data indicates child drownings continue to be the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years old.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released updated child drowning figures this month, revealing that fatal child drownings have consistently remained high, while nonfatal drowning injuries spiked in 2021.

Each year, the CPSC tracks and records pool and spa injury and fatality data to determine the populations most at risk, and to implement educational programs in those areas to reduce the amount of preventable drowning deaths.

Despite these pool injuries and deaths being almost entirely avoidable, the CPSC reports there were an average of 389 fatal drownings reported per year involving children younger than 15 years of age from 2017 through 2019 involving a pool, hot tub or spa. Of the reported fatal child drownings, 73% percent involved children younger than five years of age.

The report found two-thirds of child drownings occurred in pools or spas in a residential settings, such as the victim’s home, the house of a family member or friend, or a neighbor’s residence.

Of the non-fatal events, officials reported there were 1,000 more nonfatal drownings and injuries in 2021 when compared to the previous year, increasing by 17% from 5,800 in 2020 to 6,800 in 2021. From 2019 through 2021, 80% of children treated at hospitals for drowning related injuries were under five years old. The report found 73% of all nonfatal drowning injuries occurred at a residence, while 27% occurred at a public pool.

“Child drowning rates and nonfatal drowning injuries among children under 15 years old remain high, and water safety vigilance is as important as ever this summer for parents and caregivers,” said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric.

The agency warns that most child drowning incidents happen 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.

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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.

Pool & Spa Chemical Injuries

In 2019, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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.

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