With the summer season already in full swing, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) put the word out that downing in swimming pools and spas are one of the leading cause of child deaths and injuries.

For the third year running they announce their Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives campaign and this time around put a focus on sectors of the population, including children who are most at risk from drowning. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Children, they state in their campaign that children younger than 5 represent 75 percent of child drowning fatalities, while African American and Hispanic children between the ages of 5 and 14 drown at higher rates than white children.

They also provide a rational for the data, showing that some 70% of African American children and more than 60% of Hispanic children cannot swim, which makes them venerable when playing around the water.

Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said that :

“CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign has worked to prevent countless drownings, and we will continue to work to save even more lives this year … Drowning is still the leading cause of unintentional deaths with children younger than 5. That’s why the Pool Safely campaign is encouraging all parents and caregivers of children, especially African American and Hispanic children, to help them learn to swim and to take water safety seriously.”

The CSPC statistics include:

  • An annual average of 390 pool or spa-related drownings for children younger than 15 occurred from 2007 to 2009; about 75 percent (293) of the reported fatalities involved children younger than five.
  • An estimated annual average of 5,200 pool or spa-related emergency department-treated submersion injuries for children younger than 15, from 2009 to 2011; children younger than 5 represented 79 percent, or 4,108, of these injuries.
  • Children between the ages of 1 and 3 (12 months through 47 months) represented 66 percent of estimated injuries for 2009 through 2011 and 67 percent of the reported fatalities for 2007 through 2009 involving children younger than 15 years.
  • The majority of the estimated emergency department-treated submersion injuries for 2009 through 2011 and the reported fatalities for 2007 through 2009 were associated with pools.
  • Approximately 51 percent of the estimated injuries for 2009 through 2011 and 73 percent of the fatalities for 2007 through 2009 involving children younger than 15 years old occurred at a residence.
  • Residential locations dominated incidents involving victims younger than 5 years of age (54 percent for injuries and 85 percent for fatalities).
  • Approximately 58 percent of fatalities (annual average of 226) occurred in in-ground pools. Portable pools accounted for 10 percent of the reported fatalities (annual average of 40) to children younger than 15 years of age.
  • There were no reported entrapment fatalities for 2011. CPSC received seven reports of entrapment injury incidents during 2011.

Chairman Tenenbaum attended an event at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, where she highlighted simple safety steps to keep people, especially children out of trouble. She used data from the CPSC’s annual drowning/near-drowning and entrapment reports highlights the areas most needing attention and was accompanied by a mother Wanda Butts, who lost her son in a drowning accident in 2006.

She highlighted her grief and addressed the issue from a mother’s point of view, saying: “After losing my son, I wanted to do something to help others, so other moms wouldn’t have to suffer from the loss of a child drowning. Together, we can make a difference this summer and ensure that our kids pool safely.”

After her son’s death, Ms. Butts went on to form The Josh Project to help other children learn how to swim. Kim Burgess from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the Broward County Health Department’s Drowning Prevention Coordinator; and USA Swimming’s “Make a Splash” official Kim O’Shea, also weighed in on the issue with Burgess stating: “The National Drowning Prevention Alliance has been a partner of the Pool Safely campaign since its inception … Education is the key to preventing tragic incidents at the pool this summer. We encourage everyone to Pool Safely this holiday weekend and in the months to come.”

O’Shea added:

“The USA Swimming Foundation is proud to lend its research and resources to further the life-saving learn-to-swim message … We are incredibly proud to have enrolled more than 1.2 million children in swimming lessons through our Make a Splash initiative, to educate parents and communities across the nation about the importance of learning to swim.”

The national public education campaign Pool Safetyworks closely with partners around the country to raise awareness and gather data about near-drownings submersions and entrapment incidents in swimming pools and spas. Parents, caregivers and the media are encouraged to visit Pool Safety or follow @poolsafety on twitter. They are also encouraged to report any incidents, and assist the organization in raising standards and awareness of the issues.

The Pool Safely campaign is CPSC’s public education and information program supporting the requirements of Section 1407 of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act), federal legislation signed into law in 2007, mandating new requirements for pool and spa safety.

Written by Rupert Shepherd