New consumer safety report finds steady rise in fatal child drownings

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

CPSC’s new data shows 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.

RELATED: Can coronavirus spread in pool water?

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.

“Our latest report confirms that most child drownings take place at home during the summer months. I urge everyone to take critical safety steps to reverse the upward trend in fatal child drownings," said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler.

According to data, 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.

FULL REPORT: Pool or Spa Submersion: Estimated Nonfatal Drowning Injuries and Reported Drownings, 2020 Report

In addition to fatal drownings, CPSC’s new data shows that on average about 18 children per day were rushed to emergency rooms for pool-or-spa-related nonfatal drowning injuries from 2017-2019.

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.

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 full CPSC drowning and entrapment reports by visiting PoolSafely.gov.

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


About the Authors: