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Parents love their kids, but some love pools more

Apr. 22, 2005

If you're the curious type and interested in things like, say, childhood drowning, go to

It will take you to the Web site of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, an offshoot of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Check out the section titled Mortality Reports.

Although Arizona toddlers drown year-round (in everything from bathtubs to buckets to swimming pools), the beginning of this year's official drowning season is only days away. It's an annual event that's approached with trepidation by emergency room physicians, the people left to cope with the aftermath of what amounts to, more often than not, parental negligence.

Each year, rapidly rising spring and summer temperatures bring a rising tide of dead boys and girls. The number will increase from late April through late July, begin to level off in August and start to decrease in September. That's how it is, because that's the way it has always been.

In Arizona, roughly 75 percent of children who drown do so in their own swimming pool. There's no reason to think things will turn out differently this summer.

As has been noted in this space previously, parents with small children who live near swimming pools send an unintended message, which, although it sounds harsh to say so, boils down to this: "Our lifestyle is more important than the lives of our kids. We're willing to risk their lives so we can better enjoy our own lives."

Of course, not all kids who fall into pools actually die. For every drowning death in Arizona, there are a dozen near drowning incidents. Many of those who survive end up mildly or severely brain damaged.

Sadly, in the weeks and months to come, a whole bunch of East Valley families are going to experience drowning or near drowning tragedies. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and friends are going to experience mind-numbing grief. Families will be overwhelmed. Marriages will disintegrate (as they often do when a young child dies, regardless of the cause).

It should go without saying that responsibility for every drowning rests with an adult. How could it be otherwise? They put their children at risk by choosing to live with a swimming pool. Then they increase that risk by failing to adequately supervise the kids entrusted to their care. In 77 percent of Arizona drowning cases, the child was out of sight for five minutes or less. Nearly three-quarters of drowning incidents are attributed to the lack of a pool barrier or poor or nonexistent supervision.

Since the mid-1970s, nearly 700 Arizona children have drowned. More than 300 kids 4 years and under have drowned since 1990. That's a lot of dead babies.

Common sense tells you that most, if not all, of these "accidents" were preventable. Someone wasn't paying attention when they should have been. . No harm is ever intended, even though an enormous amount of harm is always done.

Although pools can be pleasant things to own, most would agree they're unnecessary things. No one needs a swimming pool. That being the case, why not wait until your sons, daughters and grandchildren are old enough to swim before purchasing one? Putting it off a couple of years won't kill you or, more importantly, them.

It seems to me that responsible adults have choices. Their vulnerable children don't. If you own a pool you can arrange to have it buried. You can have it drained and temporarily covered. You can choose to live in a place without a pool.

You can also choose to build fences and install all manner of locks and alarms. But ironically, when you do that you are acknowledging the enormity of the danger to which you've voluntarily chosen to expose your kids.

What's my conclusion? As much as most parents love their children, a fair number of moms and pops love their swimming pools a tad bit more.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Stephanie Paterik
Copyright 2003 Arizona Republic

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