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Drowning remains leading cause of accidental death among toddlers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission urges all parents to teach their children how to swim.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission urges all parents to teach their children how to swim.

Nearly 400 children drown each year in swimming pools and spas, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports in a May 21 news release. Among the victims, 75 percent are younger than age 5. For every fatality reported, another five children are treated for nonfatal submersion injuries. These injuries can cause brain damage. Residential in-ground pools were the site of 60 percent of these drowning deaths, 17 percent occur in above-ground pools and portable swimming pools were responsible for 10 percent of drowning among children younger than 15.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show the primary factors contributing to children drowning are lack of swimming skills, lack of adequate fencing around pools and lack of close supervision. In incidents of drowning while boating, the CDC cites failure to wear life jackets as a factor. In 2010, 88 percent of victims who drowned while boating were not wearing flotation devices.

As the nation prepares to observe Memorial Day and the start of summer, the CPSC urges parents to take the Pool Safety Pledge. The pledge asks adults to commit to taking action to avoid tragedy this summer by designating a “watcher” to supervise children around water, to teach their children to swim, and to keep children out of unattended pools and spas with fencing and covers. Parents also pledge to be prepared for accidents by learning CPR. CPSC also has created a Kid Pledge asking children to promise not to swim alone.

“Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. Most of these incidents happen at home, and all of these tragedies are preventable. I urge all parents and caregivers to teach children to swim or sign them up for swim classes, put a fence around all pools, and always watch children in and around the water.” — Acting CPSC Chairman Robert Adler

The CPSC educational video series, produced by the Pool Safety Campaign, outlines steps parents should take to secure pools and protect their children from drowning. The Campaign was launched following the drowning death of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker 2002. Baker, a strong swimmer, was stuck in a hot tub drain. The powerful suction thwarted her mother’s rescue attempt. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool Safety Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2007. The law sets safety standards for pool drains and funds educational programs of the Pool Safety Campaign.