Child fatalities from drowning remain high, says CPSC

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Here's how to protect your kids this summer

Summer should be a carefree time for families enjoying the warmer weather and outdoor activities.

But that's not always the case.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) annual drowning and submersion report, fatal child drownings and nonfatal drowning injuries for children under age 15 remain high.

Among the findings

  • There was an average of 371 pool- or spa-related fatal drownings reported per year between 2018 and 2020. The good news is the number of fatal drownings in 2020 was 340 -- down approximately 7% from previous year, when 367 children died.
  • The number of estimated non-fatal drowning injuries in 2022 was 6,400 -- statistically the same as in 2021.
  • Among children under 15, there were -- on average -- an estimated 6,300 pool- or spa-related, hospital emergency department (ED)-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries each year from 2020 through 2022. Seventy-six percent of these nonfatal drowning injuries involved children younger than five years of age.
  • Pool- or spa-related fatal child drownings involving children younger than five increased by 10% in 2020 with 279 fatalities reported, compared with 2019 when 254 fatalities were reported. Of the reported pool- or spa-related fatal child drownings, 75% involved children younger than five years of age.
  • Where location was known, 80% of reported fatal child drownings occurred in residential settings such as the victim’s home, or that of a family member, friend, or neighbor, with 91% of those drownings occurring in those younger than five years of age.
  • Child drownings continue to be the leading cause of death among children ages one to four years old. CPSC urges families with young children and those in historically excluded communities to make water safety a priority, particularly as they spend more time in and around pools during the summer.

Racial disparities in drowning fatalities

Out of the 63% of all drowning fatalities involving children whose race is identified, African American children made up 21% of all drownings.

For older children -- aged five to 14 with race identified -- 45% of drowning deaths involved African Americans. These data highlight the need to reach historically excluded communities with water safety information and support, said CPSC.

What you can do

“The fatalities from drowning and non-fatal drowning injuries are still high, so water safety vigilance remains crucially important this summer and all year,” said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric. “CPSC urges parents and caregivers to follow Pool Safely safety steps.

Specifically:

  • 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 phone or being 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 barriers to prevent an unsupervised child from accessing the water. Homes can use door alarms, pool covers, and self-closing, self-latching devices on fence gates and doors that access pools.
  • 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. If you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers.

A list of CPSC pool safety tips may be found here.

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