The good news is that fewer children under age 15 appear to be drowning in swimming pools and hot tubs across the country.
The bad news is that in 2009, emergency rooms treated far more
children for pool and spa submersion injuries than in the two years prior.
The news was included among the latest data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission on pool and spa
drowning injuries and fatalities. That data, along with updated
findings on suction entrapment incidents, was released in concert
with CPSC’s recent launch of its nationwide public education
effort linked to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
“The take-home message for people in the industry is that we
cannot hide from this issue,” said Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D.,
CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“If we don’t make this an active part of what we do
every day, we’re opening ourselves to further regulation
‘ and there’s no guarantee it’s going to be done
the right way,” he continued. “With the added public
awareness of these issues, it now raises the bar for our industry
to address those types of things.”
Among the more noteworthy information on drownings, CPSC found:
• For children under age 5, fatal and nonfatal incidents were
far more likely to take place in residential pools and spas vs.
• For children age 15 and younger, nearly three-quarters of
all pool or spa-related deaths occurred at the victim’s home,
a family or friend’s home, or a neighbor’s house.
• For children under age 15, nearly 60 percent of fatalities
took place in inground pools, followed by aboveground pools (14
percent) and portable pools (9 percent).
“For most people, once their pools are built, there’s
very little follow-up to safety and drowning prevention,”
Lachocki said. “You cannot walk away from the pool —
whether you’re a builder or a service company or a retailer
— and not help them operate that pool more safely.”
As for entrapments, CPSC’s findings confirm anecdotal
accounts that, while tragic, such incidents comprise a miniscule
percentage of pool and spa injuries and deaths.
From 1999-2009, approximately 94 total incidents (12 of them fatal)
were attributed to suction entrapment, the agency found. In 2009
there were eight reported entrapments, none of which were fatal.
In contrast to drowning, children under age 5 were involved in 12
of the 94 reported incidents of entrapment, none of them fatal.
In light of the resources spent on entrapment prevention in recent
years, the numbers raised a few eyebrows.
“It doesn’t mean we should neglect entrapment, but we
should be spending proportionally on areas that will have the
biggest impact on preventing death and misery … and not
overspending in areas that aren’t going to have as great an
impact,” Lachocki noted.
But others maintain that, spending aside, the added attention of
legislation such as VGB on pool safety has helped raise public awareness.
“We’ve seen enough things out there that were just
looming hazards waiting to happen,” said Javier Payan, owner of Payan Pool Service in El Cajon,
Calif., who discussed the issue with VGB sponsor Rep. Debbie
Wasserman Shultz, D-Fla, during last year’s National Drowning Prevention Symposium in Miami
“So this has given us an opportunity to fix a lot of those
things,” Payan added. “VGB has created a brand-new
venue for people to do things the right way now.”