CPSC Report Warns About Increasing Rate of Child Drowning Deaths in U.S.

Federal safety officials indicate that 380 U.S. children drowned in 2021; which is an increase of 12% over the previous year.

As the summer season kicks off, with many families heading to the pool and beaches, federal safety officials are warning parents and caregivers to vigilantly supervise their children while swimming, as recent data shows an alarming increase in drowning deaths among children.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published the Estimated Nonfatal Drowning Injuries and Reported Drownings Report last month, revealing that drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death for U.S. children ages one to four.

Despite a steady decline in U.S. drowning deaths over previous decades, recent years have seen a reversal of this trend, particularly among young children, according to the data. From 2019 to 2021, over 75% of drowning victims were children under the age of 5, with the highest incidence among toddlers aged one to two years.

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The CPSC report found a notable increase in drowning fatalities for 2021, which included 380 child drownings; a 12% increase from the 339 cases recorded in 2020.

In cases where the location was specified, the majority of fatal swimming accidents involving children under 15 occurred in residential pools, including those at the child’s own home or at the homes of neighbors, friends, or family members. Given the absence of professional lifeguards in such settings, the CPSC indicates it is crucial for all family members to be proficient swimmers.

The CPSC has released a series of tips for child swimming safety called Pool Safely. which is designed to be a reference for parents who plan to spend time in the water this summer. The guidelines note the importance of keeping children away from drains and suction outlets, as hair, jewelry, and clothes can get stuck in these devices, causing injury.

“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,” CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said in the announcement. “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.”

In further support of a national effort to increase swim safety, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a press release last month calling for more access to swimming lessons amid the rise of fatal drownings, as swimming lessons are often expensive and may not be available at all in lower income communities.

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