Each year, hundreds of young children die and thousands come close to death due to submersion in residential swimming pools. CPSC has estimated that each year about 300 children under 5 years old drown in swimming pools. The Commission estimates hospital emergency room treatment is required for more than 2,000 children under 5 years of age who were submerged in residential pools. CPSC did an extensive study of swimming pool accidents, both fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions, in California, Arizona and Florida, states in which home swimming pools are very popular and in use during much of the year. The findings from that study led Commission staff to develop the guidelines in this handbook.
The speed with which swimming pool drownings and submersions can occur is a special concern: by the time a child’s absence is noted, the child may have drowned. Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive and lack a realistic sense of danger. These behaviors, coupled with a child’s ability to move quickly and unpredictably make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households with young children. Swimming pool drownings of young children have another particularly insidious feature: these are silent deaths. It is unlikely that splashing or screaming will occur to alert a parent or caregiver that a child is in trouble. CPSC staff have reviewed a great deal of data on drownings and child behavior, as well as information on pool and pool barrier construction. The staff concluded that the best way to reduce child drownings in residential pools was for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that would prevent young children from gaining access to pools. However, there are no substitutes for diligent supervision.