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Most Child Drowning Fatalities Occurred in a Residential Setting

A new report released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) highlights the need for continued vigilance…

  • July 5, 2020

A new report released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) highlights the need for continued vigilance in combating child drownings, particularly as many families prepare to spend more time at home this summer to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Child drownings remain the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years old.

CPSC’s new data shows that there were, on average, 379 reported pool-or-spa-related fatal drownings per year for 2015 through 2017, involving children younger than 15 years old.

Annual fatal drowning rates increased gradually between 2015 and 2017, with a spike of 395 reported fatalities involving children younger than 15 years old in 2017.

Residential locations, such as a child’s home, a family or friend’s house or a neighbor’s residence, made up 71 percent of the reported fatal drowning incidents.

Children younger than 5 years old accounted for 75 percent of child drownings between 2015 and 2017, 56 percent of which were attributed to a gap in adult supervision.

In addition to fatal drownings, CPSC’s new data shows that there were an estimated 6,700 pool-or-spa-related, hospital emergency department-treated, nonfatal child drowning injuries each year for 2017 through 2019.

This is the equivalent of about 18 children every day, 365 days a year.

Parents and caregivers can follow Pool Safely’s simple steps to help prevent both fatal and nonfatal drownings and keep children safer no matter where they are spending time around the water this season, and particularly during an extended time at home:

Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone or be otherwise distracted. In addition to pools and spas, this warning includes bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds, and fountains.

If you own a pool or spa, install layers of protection, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults. Many communities offer online CPR training.

Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.

Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.

Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers.

Take the Pool Safely Pledge as a family, and find customized water safety resources using the Pool Safely Safer Water Information Match (S.W.I.M.) tool.

In 2019, CPSC also released an updated report on suction entrapment incidents in swimming pools, spas and whirlpool bathtubs.

The key finding is that since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act went into effect in December 2008, there have been zero reported fatalities involving a child being entrapped on a suction outlet cover in a public pool or spa.

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