General Facts on Drowning
- Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under.
- Since 1999, an average of more than 815 children ages 14 and under have died as a result of unintentional drowning each year. These drownings occur in pools, spas, open bodies of water and in the home.
- Since 2001, an average of more than 3,700 children sustained nonfatal near drowning-related injuries each year.
- In 2009, more than 5,000 children sustained nonfatal near drowning-related injuries.
- Each year there have been approximately 5,100 pool- or spa-related submersion injuries treated at emergency departments and 383 pool- or spa-related deaths among children ages 14 and under.
- Children under 5 years of age represent a majority (76 percent) of reported fatalities and almost 80 percent of emergency department-treated submersion injuries.
- Since 1999 there have been approximately 100 reported incidences of entrapment in pools and spa with at least 12 fatalities.
- From 2006 to 2010 there were 684 water submersions at home in bathtubs, buckets, toilets and landscaping features to children under the age of 5. This figure includes 434 fatalities (87 per year).
Where, When and How Drowning & Entrapments Happens
- Swimming pools are the most common site for a drowning to occur among children between the ages 1 and 4 years.
- Approximately 72 percent of pool submersion deaths and 55 percent of pool submersion injuries occur at a home pool or spa.
Eighty-four percent of drowning deaths among children ages 5 and under occur at a home, while 45 percent of fatalities among children ages 5 to 14 occur at a public pool.
- From 1990 to 2010, there were approximately 100 reported cases of body entrapment by a pool or spa drain. From 1990 to 2010, there were 50 incidents of hair entanglement in the drains.
- From 2004 to 2006, 47 children died in inflatable pools. From 2001 to 2009, 244 portable pool submersion cases were reported involving children ages 11 and under.
- Entrapments occur in both public and residential pools and spas.
- According to a national study of drowning-related incidents involving children, a parent or caregiver claimed to be supervising the child in nearly nine out of 10 child drowning-related deaths.
- Two-thirds of drowning deaths occur in the summer, between May and August, and most commonly on the weekends.
- The majority of infant (less than 1 year old) drowning deaths happen in bathtubs or large buckets.
- Recreational boating accidents caused 9 drowning deaths among children ages 12 and under in 2010; more than half of the children were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life jackets.
Children are the Victims
- In 2008, children ages 4 and under had the highest drowning death rate (about two times greater than other age groups) and accounted for 65 percent of drownings.
- Male children have a drowning rate twice that of female children.
- Black children ages 5 to 14 have a drowning rate three times that of their white counterparts.
- Low-income children are at greater risk from non-swimming pool drownings.
- Children under the age of 15 make up the vast majority of entrapments, but adults have been victims also.
Preventing Drowning & Entrapments
- Four-sided isolation fencing around home pools could prevent 50 to 90 percent of childhood drownings and near-drownings. When used properly, door alarms, pool alarms and automatic pool covers add an extra layer of protection.
- The use of specially-made drain covers, safety vacuum-release systems, multiple filter pumps and other pressure-venting pool filter mechanisms can reduce the risk of entrapment.
- It is estimated that half of all drowning events among recreational boaters could have been prevented if personal flotation devices were worn. Most children ages 14 and under who drowned in reported recreational boating accidents were not wearing PFDs or life jackets.
- Educational efforts focused on PFDs and safe boating practices are effective in increasing PFD usage.
- Warn children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
- Actively supervise your children around water at all times, and have a phone nearby to call for help in an emergency.
Government’s Role in Preventing Drowning & Entrapments
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has developed guidelines, including education and labeling, to address the hazard of infants drowning in five-gallon buckets. Look for the labels on all 5-gallon buckets.
- Ten states and many communities have safety laws requiring fencing around residential swimming pools.
- Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act in 2007, which requires all public pools and spas use anti-entrapment devices, such as safety drain covers and, in some cases, safety vacuum release systems.
- In 2008, the Minnesota state legislature and Governor signed the Abbey’s Hope Pool and Spa Safety Act that requires all Minnesota public pools to install anti-entrapment safety devices. The law also requires all public pool owners and operators to inspect those safety devices every day to make sure they are installed correctly and operational.
- The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all children under age 13 wear a personal flotation device while on a recreational vessel. Forty-eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have some form of legislation that requires children to wear PFDs while on or near open bodies of water.
- Recreational boats must carry one properly-sized, U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD (accessible and in good condition) for each person on board.