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Inez Moore Tenenbaum

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385 Dead, 4,200 Injured. From What? Pools and Spas.

Posted: 05/24/10 12:14 PM ET

The splash starts Memorial Day weekend, when pool season kicks into high gear.

Pools and spas are great sources of family fun and relaxation. They are also sources of too many preventable family tragedies.

From 2005 through 2007, an average of 385 children younger than age 15 drowned every year in pools or spas. More than 75 percent of those children were under five years old.

Serious injuries in pools also occur, but don't always get as much attention. From 2007 through 2009, 4,200 children younger than 15 were treated each year in hospital emergency rooms from water-related pool injuries. Almost half of those injuries were to children between the ages of 1 and 2. Half of the injuries and about three-fourths of the deaths in these pool or spas happen at homes.

This loss of life and high numbers of injuries are tragic and preventable. That's a key word - preventable.

Together, we can all take steps to save lives and "pool safely."

Some of those steps have been underway since 2008 thanks to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The law, championed by Fla. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was designed to prevent child drownings and tragedies that occur from the hidden hazard of drain entrapments, like the death of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker. Graeme died in 2002 after becoming stuck on a hot tub drain due to its powerful suction force. It took two adult men to free Graeme from the drain. The men had to pull so hard that the drain cover broke from the force.

Now public pools and spas around the country are required to have special drain covers and many of the most commonly designed public pools also need to have secondary systems to prevent entrapment. In 2009, CPSC received seven reports of entrapment injuries, but no entrapment deaths. Our goal is to make sure that 2010 is another year with no entrapment deaths.

This is a start. But there's so much more every one of us can and must do. Every one of us -- every mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle -- needs to take simple steps to end the pool tragedies in this country.

Steps like installing barriers such as a 4-foot fence around backyard and aboveground pools.

Steps like putting alarms on doors leading to pools to prevent young children from wandering into the pool area without your knowledge.

Steps like always watching all children playing in or near water, every moment they are in or near the water, and keeping non-swimmers within reach.

Steps like ensuring that drain covers at any pool or spa you use meets safety standards and making sure that children stay away from drain covers and pipes.

And steps like learning CPR and teaching your children how to swim and play safely in the pool.

These are some of the simple steps you can take to keep your family safe. Use CPSC's new education campaign called Pool Safely to learn more and tell your neighbors and your friends.

Each one of us can and must step up to put an end to the hundreds of unnecessary drownings and thousands of close calls that families experience every year. Plan your steps and Pool Safely.

 

Follow Inez Moore Tenenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/OnSafety