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CPSC Report Shows Child Drownings Remain High; Most Fatalities to Children Under Five

Release Date: June 08, 2021

Fewer Kids Took Swim Lessons During COVID-19 Pandemic Putting Them at Risk

WASHINGTON – The annual drowning and submersion report released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds families to make water safety a priority, particularly as they return to community pools and resume warm-weather activities near water. Child drownings remain the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages one to four years old.

CPSC’s latest data show:

  • an increase in pool-or spa-related fatal drowning incidents among children younger than 15 years old;
  • on average, there were 397 reported pool-or-spa-related fatal drownings per year for 2016 through 2018, involving children younger than 15 years of age; and
  • seventy-five percent of the reported fatal drownings from 2016 through 2018 involved children younger than five years of age- eighty-three percent of these were at residential pools.

“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,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “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.”

While the report shows that number of pool-or spa-related, hospital emergency department-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries decreased from 2019 (6,300 injuries) to 2020 (5,800 injuries), CPSC advises that the changes are not statistically significant. From 2018 to 2020, 78 percent of nonfatal drowning injuries occurred among children younger than five years old.

The lower number of drownings is likely the result of limitations on summer activities – including group or public swimming – due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As American families gradually return to public recreational activities and in-person gatherings in the warm-weather months, parents and caregivers can follow Pool Safely’s simple steps to help prevent fatal and nonfatal drownings and keep children safer:

  • 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 barriers to prevent the unsupervised child from accessing the water. Homes can use door alarms, pool covers, and self-closing, self-latching devices on doors that access the pools and on gates of four-sided fences.
  • 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.
  • Visit the Pool Safely Kids’ Corner to keep children entertained and educated with virtual water safety games and activities.
  • 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.

Additional health and safety considerations for visiting public pools during COVID-19 are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here.

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

Note: CPSC’s report addresses nonfatal drownings for the period 2018 through 2020 and fatal drownings for the period 2016 through 2018, reflecting a lag in the reporting of fatal drowning statistics.

Release Number
21-148

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.

Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.

For lifesaving information:

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