CPSC Warns about Pool Hazards, Reports 250 Deaths of Young Children Annually:Federal Agency Launches Drowning Prevention Initiative, Holding Public Hearings

May 25, 2004
Release Number: 04-142

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today is launching a drowning prevention campaign as part of an intensified initiative to prevent the tragic drowning of 250 children under the age of 5 annually in swimming pools. Among unintentional injuries, drowning has been the second leading cause of death to children under age 5, after motor vehicle incidents. In 2002, an estimated 1,600 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion injuries. Many of these deaths and injuries occur in residential pools.

"That so many young children drown each year is devastating," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Each of these deaths is not only the pointless end of a promising life, but an overwhelming grief for the family that goes on for years and years. As a father, I cannot imagine having to endure the pain of such a loss."

Reducing the rate of drowning deaths is one of CPSC's strategic goals. To help achieve this goal, CPSC is holding two public hearings to explore strategies to prevent drowning deaths. The first public hearing will take place in Tampa, Fla., on June 21, 2004, and the second hearing will be in Phoenix, Ariz. on July 27, 2004. "We want to find new solutions and try to create new awareness about this hazard," Stratton said.

Additionally, CPSC is broadcasting a video news release nationwide to promote pool safety, CPSC field staff is participating in local pool safety events, and the agency is promoting drowning prevention on its Web site at www.cpsc.gov.

One of the most tragic aspects of drowning deaths is that they are preventable, but there is no foolproof method of prevention. CPSC recommends using layers of protection. This includes, constant supervision of young children; placing barriers such as a fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate around your pool to prevent access; and being prepared in case of an emergency.

"We believe that using multiple layers of protections can prevent many of these deaths, but still too many children are dying," Stratton said. "We are conducting these public meetings to find out what has worked around the nation."

With Memorial Day coming and many people readying their pools for the summer, now is the time to redouble efforts to prevent drowning deaths. Many of the swimming pool deaths occur in summer months.

Close supervision of young children is vital for families with a home pool -- and not just when outside using the pool. A common scenario is that young children leave the house without a parent or caregiver realizing it. Children are drawn to water, not knowing the terrible danger pools can pose. Also, just because children know how to swim, doesn't mean they are safe. All children should be supervised every second while in and around the pool.

The commission offers these additional tips to prevent drowning:

-Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child's reach. Keep furniture that could be used for climbing into the pool area away from fences.

-If your house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce a sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.

-A power safety cover -- a motor-powered barrier that can be placed over the water area -- can be used when the pool is not in use.

-Keep rescue equipment by the pool and be sure a phone is poolside with emergency numbers posted. Knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be a lifesaver.

-Don't leave pool toys and floats in the pool or pool area that may attract young children to the water.

-For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.

-If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.

-Pool alarms can be used as an added precaution. Look for alarms that meet the requirements of the ASTM standard. The commission advises that consumers use remote alarm receivers so the alarm can be heard inside the house or in other places away from the pool area.

-To prevent body entrapment and hair entrapment/entanglement, have a qualified pool professional inspect the drain suction fittings and covers on your pool and spa to be sure that they are the proper size, properly attached, and meet current safety standards. If your pool or spa has a single drain outlet, consider installing a safety vacuum release system that breaks the vacuum to avoid potential entrapment conditions.

Additionally, CPSC offers three free publications consumers can use to help prevent child drowning: Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools (PDF), How to Plan for the Unexpected (PDF) and Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer (PDF). Copies of these publications can be obtained by going to our Web site at www.cpsc.gov, by calling our Hotline at (800) 638-2772, or by writing to "Pool Safety", U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C., 20207.