Sep 052011

The traditional start of the summer swimming season – Memorial Day weekend – is quickly approaching. Thousands of children have already flocked to swimming pools to cool off and have fun.

Unfortunately, it has already been a tragic start to year for the many Arizonans. In the first 16 weeks of 2011, there have been nine drowning and near-drowning incidents across the state.

At the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, we believe one incident is one too many. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children, but it is preventable.

In one week’s time, there have been five drownings and one near-drowning in the Phoenix area. Two girls, ages 2 and 3, drowned in Mesa last month; and a 7-year-old girl drowned and two 1-year-old girls nearly drowned in Phoenix. All five incidents occurred in backyard pools. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar.

As a warmer-weather state where children enjoy pools and spas year-round, Arizona is among the top states for drownings and near-drownings of children younger than 15. A look at last year’s pool and spa incidents indicates that the number of injuries and deaths remains too high. In 2010, the media reported more than 530 drowning and near-drowning incidents nationwide and 46 of these were in Arizona.

Each of these incidents represents a family tragedy.

As the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, I have been traveling the country urging parents and children to follow simple water-safety steps to protect themselves in and around pools and spas. Our national public-education campaign, Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives, aims to reduce childhood drownings, near-drownings and entrapments in and around swimming pools and spas. The campaign was created as part of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which mandated new safety requirements for swimming pools and spas, including a national education campaign.

We all remember – and applaud – the heroic actions of a young boy last month who used a Pool Safely water-safety step – CPR – to save his sister in Mesa.

To pool safely is to watch your children at all times, know lifesaving water skills like CPR or learning how to swim, and ensure you have the appropriate safety equipment installed in your pool or spa. Pool alarms and self-latching gates can help keep the little ones from getting into the pool area. Installing a 4-foot fence around residential swimming pools and spas is another simple water-safety step that can help to prevent an incident. The Pool Safely campaign recommends adopting as many water-safety steps as possible.

With springtime upon us, we need to remind all families about the simple water-safety steps they can take to ensure they are safe this summer and year-round. Adding just one extra safety step around the water can make all the difference. You can never know which safety step will save a life – until it does.

Inez M. Tenenbaum is the chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. For more information, please visit

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