Summer Swim Season Also Brings Drowning Risk

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As the summer months approach and children trade backpacks for boogie boards, safety advocates are urging parents to be aware of the dangers of swimming pools in parks, aquatic centers and outside their own homes.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission on Monday is set to release its annual childhood drowning report, which presents estimates of deaths and injuries associated with pools, spas or hot tubs. The release of the report coincides with the launch of a national campaign that is geared toward reducing similar incidents across the country.

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"We truly believe that by adding a few simple steps that make the backyard or public pool safer, we can save lives and keep kids having fun in the water," Inez Tenenbaum, chair of the CPSC, said in a statement.

Included in the report's findings:

An annual average of 385 pool- or spa-related fatalities involving children under the age of 15 were reported to the CPSC from 2005 to 2007. Of those reported drownings, an annual average of 299 were children under the age of 5.

Of the estimated number injuries involving children younger than 15 that occurred annually from 2007 to 2009, about 54 percent occurred at a residential location.

Seven people were injured in entrapment incidents in 2009, according to reports received by the CPSC.

On Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Tenenbaum is expected to be joined by Olympic swimmers Jason Lezak and Janet Evans, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to kick off the Pool Safely campaign, which will continue throughout the year.

Also attending the launch event will be Nancy Baker, whose daughter, Virginia Graeme Baker, drowned in June 2002. Baker described her daughter as a humble, sweet and loving child who didn't take risks like her twin sister. The 7-year-old girl, a good swimmer and the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, died after being trapped by the suction in a hot tub.

"I couldn't pull her off of this thing," Nancy Baker said of the incident, which happened at a graduation party. "I didn't even know what was holding here there. I didn't know of entrapment."

A federal law aimed at strengthening pool safety now carries Virginia Graeme Baker's name.

Chrissy Cianflone, director of programs for Safe Kids USA, said parents should make sure adequate barriers and fences are installed around pool areas, learn CPR, and keep a careful eye on children who are in and around the water. Even children who have taken swimming lessons should be closely watched, Cianflone said. Often, she said, parents will say they are supervising their child, but are actually focused on other distractions.

"Drowning is a silent killer. It can happen in a matter of seconds," Cianflone said. "Children drown very quickly and very silently. It's not like you see in the movies. ... They're going to go under and usually people recognize that something is wrong when they don't hear anything, when there's silence. And that's when it's too late."