Experts Sounding Alarm Over Increasing Drowning Rates

Pool Magazine

Drowning prevention and reducing deaths associated with swimming pools go hand in hand. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) annual drowning report, child drowning deaths and nonfatal drowning injuries in children under 15 remain high, and nonfatal drownings increased by 17% in 2021.

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Drowning Facts – Have We Hit a Crisis Point in America?Pool Magazine

Drowning Statistics

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the largest cause of unintentional mortality globally, accounting for about 372,000 deaths annually. 140,000 of these fatalities involved children.

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Drowning Facts – Have We Hit a Crisis Point in America?Pool Magazine

Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate approximately 4,000 persons drown each year in the United States. After birth abnormalities, drowning is the second biggest cause of death among children. Drowning is the second biggest cause of accidental mortality among children aged 1 to 14, ranking just behind motor vehicle accidents.

A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission states an average of 379 children under the age of 15 drown each year in documented incidents associated with pools or spas, and this number has been increasing in the United States.

In 2018–2019, there were 73 unintentional drowning deaths for children under 1 year of age, 821 for ages 1–4, 390 for ages 5–13, and 270 for ages 14–17. (CDC). Most home swimming pool drownings involve children aged 1 to 4. 74% of fatal pool incidents occurred in private residences.

Texas Leads The Nation in Childhood Drownings

Texas is first in the nation for childhood drownings. 67% of drowning deaths in swimming pools involved youngsters younger than three years old. Black children aged 10-14 are 7.6 times more likely to drown in swimming pools than white children. According to the CDC, black children are more likely to drown in public pools, whereas white children are more likely to drown in residential swimming pools.

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Swimming pool-related drowning deaths were highest among the 1-14 age group in children.CDC

Seven years ago, a National Safety Council investigation revealed that the majority of states were substantially behind on their grading scale. The NSC research included detailed recommendations for what states should do. They presented suggestions for earning a passing grade:

  • States revise regulations for public pools and water facilities to correspond to the Model Aquatic Health Code.
  • High school graduation requirements should include CPR training.
  • All domestic swimming pools are required by law to be surrounded by a barrier.

Experts Say More Still Needs To Be Done To Lower The Number of Deaths

In 2015, the media urged states to lower the number of drowning deaths. To date, the majority of the nation has not implemented the NSC's proposed standards. According to experts such as Dr. Adam Katchmarchi, Executive Director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), we have reached a crisis point in the United States.

In 2020 we saw drowning rates increase significantly for the first time in a very long time, ” - Dr. Adam Katchmarchi - NDPA

Katchmarchi has begun sounding the alarm because an increase in drowning deaths may have a direct, demonstrable correlation with recent events.

The facts about drowning indicate it's a leading cause of death among children and young adults. Experts in the field of drowning prevention assert that the majority of states lack essential legislation and regulations. According to experts, states must do more effort to effectively reduce the death rate. Existing legislation are typically inconsistent, even among nearby jurisdictions.

In March, almost two hundred national, state, and local organizations, including the American Red Cross, the YMCA, and the California Highway Patrol, wrote to Congress. They referred to the spike in drownings as a "silent crisis" that required leadership and funding from the government.

Katchmarchi thinks that developing a National Water Safety Action Plan needs more focus.“This is designed to impact the community, county, state, and federal level when it comes to water safety. This was in response to a call from the World Health Organization for nations to have a national plan addressing drowning, ” said Katchmarchi.

“I was part of the U.S. delegation in 2017 that attended the world conference on drowning prevention, what was quite embarrassing was that the United States was the only developed nation that did not have a water safety action plan,” explained Dr. Katchmarchi, “We hadn’t even started developing it at that point. When you look at other developed nations, we’re compared to Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Canada but the biggest difference is their federal governments take a much more active role in water safety.”

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