CPSC, Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Water Safety Community Join Forces to Urge All Families to Pool Safely

New statistics show that fatal and non-fatal child drownings in pools and spas continue to pose a public health and safety challenge across the United States.
May 21, 2015
Release Number: 15-147

Latest data shows drowning remains leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New statistics released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) show that fatal and non-fatal child drownings in pools and spas continue to pose a public health and safety challenge across the United States.  CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz urged families and communities at a news conference to take simple steps ahead of the start of the summer swim season to prevent child drownings.

CPSC’s figures show there were 397 reported fatal child drownings in pools and spas in 2010 involving children younger than 15, with 302 involving children younger than 5.  Those figures went down to 364 and 279, respectively, for 2012.  Government data also indicates that between 2010 and 2012 the majority (55 percent) of the fatalities involving children younger than 15 occurred in in-ground pools, with portable pools accounting for seven percent of the reported fatalities. The majority of fatal drownings (75 percent) occurred in residential pools.

CPSC staff have estimated 5,400 pool- or spa-related hospital emergency department treated non-fatal drownings each year from 2012 through 2014 involving children younger than 15.  This is an increase from the agency’s last report, which showed an average estimated 4,900 non-fatal drownings each year from 2011 through 2013.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Chairman Kaye announced the start of the application period for the Pool Safely Grant Program, an opportunity for state and local governments to apply for monies to support education and enforcement programs. More information can be found at http://www.poolsafely.gov/grants/vgbfy16/.

“With Memorial Day weekend marking the traditional opening of pools in many communities, we urge parents to remember a simple message: If you prevent unattended pool and spa access, you prevent many children from drowning,” said Chairman Kaye.  “As a parent of two young children myself, I have mixed feelings about heading into the summer months.  It is an exciting time with so many pools opening, but it is also a distressing time, as drowning continues to be the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages  1 to 4.  The most effective drowning prevention strategy is to cut off the access by completely surrounding pools and spas with fences that isolate the water from the house.”

 “A day at the pool should be a fun family activity, and safe. Today’s statistics show that we still have a lot of work to do and are still losing too many of our children to preventable tragedies involving pools. As a mother of three, this issue is close to my heart.  I hope all parents take time before summer begins to learn about common hazards, have a conversation with their kids, and take the appropriate measures to keep them safe around the pool,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz said.

Founder of CPR PartyTM (formerly The C.L.A.Y. Foundation), Laura Metro, whose son Clay suffered a 2011 non-fatal drowning at a community swimming pool, stressed the importance of this commitment. “Following the simple water safety steps outlined in the Pledge may truly save a child’s life,” said Metro. “Because a friend at the scene of my son’s drowning started CPR, one of the key commitments in the Pledge, Clay is still with us today.”

After its successful launch last summer, CPSC is again urging adults and kids to reaffirm their commitment to staying safer this swim season by taking the Pool Safely Pledge. So far, more than 11,000 adults and children have taken the Pledge to pool safely.

“I encourage all parents and kids to join the Pool Safely family and take the Pledge,” said Kaye. “If we are going to stop drowning and keep kids safer in the water, it will take a commitment from every community in our country.”

Memorial Day weekend represents the traditional start of the summer swim season. This summer the Pool Safely campaign is again focusing on populations most at risk of drowning:

  • Children between the ages of 1 and 3 represent 64 percent of reported non-fatal drownings (2012-2014) and 65 percent of fatal drownings (2010-2012), according to CPSC.
  • African American children between the ages of 5 and 19 are 5.5 times more likely to drown in pools than white children that age, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The disparity in swimming ability is greatest from 11-12 years; at these ages, African-American children drown in pools at 10 times the rate of white children, according to the CDC.

The CPSC Pool or Spa Submersion: Estimated Injuries and Reported Fatalities, 2015 Report shows:

  • On average, 382 children younger than 15 fatally drown every year between 2010 and 2012 in pools or spas , with 76 percent (290) of the victims being younger than 5.
  • In 2010, a reported 397 children younger than 15 fatally drown in pools or spas, including 302 children younger than 5. In 2012, 364 children younger than 15 fatally drown, including 279 younger than 5.
  • An estimated average of 5,400 children younger than 15 were treated between 2012 and 2014 in emergency rooms for pool- or spa-related submersion injuries every year, with 77 percent of the injured being younger than 5.
  • Residential locations dominated incidents involving victims younger than 5 years old; 87 percent of the reported fatalities occurred at residential pools or spas. About 49 percent of the injuries and 75 percent of the fatalities involving children younger than 15 years occurred at a residence.
  • Of the reported pool fatalities for children younger than age 15, about 55 percent (212 annual average) occurred in in-ground pools; 18 percent of pool fatalities occurred in above-ground pools, and only 7 percent of reported pool fatalities occurred in portable pools.

Follow these simple steps to keep children safer in and around the water:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.
  • Designate a Water Watcher to supervise children in the pool or spa. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smart phone or be otherwise distracted.
  • Learn how to swim, and teach your child how to swim.
  • Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults.
  • 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 safe drain covers.

CPSC’s report addressed non-fatal drownings for the period from 2011 through 2013 and reported fatal drownings for the period from 2010 through 2012, reflecting a lag in the reporting of fatal drowning statistics.