A recent study reveals that childhood drowning deaths in California swimming pools have dropped in the last 20 years.
The data was compiled by SPEC, a Sacramento lobbying group for the California pool and spa industry. It specifies the numbers of pool-related drownings since 1991 for victims up to the age of 4.
“Very few jurisdictions have ever separated swimming pools from rivers, buckets, bathtubs and streams. But we have,” said Don Burns, CEO of SPEC.
Last year, in response to the federal Pool and Spa Safety Act, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals partnered with SPEC to collect the much-needed industry data.
Using statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, PK Data and the California Department of Health Services, the study makes a distinction between total child drownings and pool-related deaths.
In 1991, there were 69 pool drownings. That number was down to 29 victims in 2004, the most current year reported in the study.
Meanwhile, California’s population has steadily grown, and roughly 35,000 new pools are built annually, according to SPEC. “While exposure [to pools] has increased, the number of [drowning] incidences has not. Something good is happening,” Burns said.
He attributed the reduction to a number of factors, including the California Swimming Pool Safety Act of 1996 and industry outreach.
Burns cited the help of local pool builders, APSP chapters and the International Pool & Spa Service Association. He also mentioned that SPEC mails inserts on aquatic safety to California water departments to include with their utility billings at the beginning of every swim season. “It’s no accident these figures aren’t jumping around. It’s a consistent pattern of drownings going down and pools going up,” Burns said.
Currently, the Pool and Spa Safety Act has been reintroduced into Congress. Last year, the federal safety bill, a first for the industry, failed to pass the vote in the House of Representatives. The latest version is slightly different, with stricter language on safety vacuum release systems (SVRS's) and new barrier rules.
While APSP largely supports the bill, it hopes to discuss some of these points. ”We want to make sure the bill is consistent with the recently adopted ANSI/APSP-7 standard. And given there are different types and uses of pools, we want to make sure the barrier provisions are reasonable for all circumstances,” said Bill Weber, APSP’s president/CEO.
The bill, along with national drowning campaigns, has brought new focus on pools and spas — positive and negative.
“One of the major reasons we do research is in the case of allegations against the industry,” Weber said. “This kind of study gives us an opportunity to be objective and communicate [our side] because we don’t want to under- or overreact.”