The Consumer Products Safety Commission recently reported there were, on average, an estimated 6,600 pool-or-spa related, hospital emergency department treated, nonfatal drowning injuries each year for 2016 through 2018, and 363 pool-or-spa related fatal child drownings reported per year for 2014 through 2016, involving children younger than 15. Fatal incident rates spiked in 2016 with 389 reported fatalities involving children younger than 15, 74 percent of which involved children younger than 5. In addition, the data also identified June as the month with the highest fatality incident rate and residential locations made up 72 percent of reported fatal drowning incidents.
Children ages 1-4 have the highest drowning rates with most drownings occurring in home swimming pools. For every child who dies from drowning, another five are admitted to emergency hospital wards for additional care. Many of these nonfatal injuries can result in severe brain damage which may result in long-term disabilities including permanent loss of basic functions and even permanent vegetative state. In addition to the emotional and financial impact these deaths and injuries have on individual families, the disabilities associated with near-drownings impose major, long-term costs on the state. As of June 2015, 717 individuals were receiving care from the California Department of Developmental Services for permanent disabilities incurred in near-drowning incidents.
These statistics are daunting in the world of public policy. They paint a picture that is extremely hard for legislators and other public policy leaders to ignore. A new American Academy of Pediatrics policy announced just last month recommending swimming lessons for children beginning age 1 and indicated young children who receive swimming lessons are 88% less likely to drown than without. But when parents of children who accidentally drowned in the neighbor’s pool sit before a legislative committee arguing for more safety devices to protect children from swimming pools, legislators tend to listen and vote to support.
Child safety and anti-drowning groups include individual members who are sports figures and movie stars. These organizations are supported by other nonprofits and can, at their will, recruit first responders such as fire and police unions, fire chiefs, public health departments, and the media. In California, CPSA has fought the barrier fight for the pool and spa industry, from the initial legislation that allowed homeowners to choose at least one safety device to SB 442 in 2018 which mandates the use of two of the allowed seven pool safety devices. CPSA was successful with SB 442 for it helped achieve one statewide standard and eliminated the ability of local public entities to establish stricter requirements.
However, the fight is not over. Increasingly, we see groups advocate that the only answer is isolation fencing. As such, this issue will be back, it’s just a matter of time. The swimming pool and spa industry needs to be innovative and develop additional pool safety devices that are even more effective in preventing drowning and great bodily injury to children. Of note, in the recent CPSC report, there were no new reports of pool drain cover injuries in the U.S. this last year, the result of laws and innovation in the industry. We should strive to match that record for swimming pool and spa drowning prevention.
Supporting CPSA for a few hundred dollars per year allows us to continue to represent California with responsible government relations. Join today!