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Unintentional drowning deaths among children aged 0-17 years: United States, 1999-2019

Citation Spencer MR, Hedegaard H, Warner M. NCHS Data Brief 2021; (413): 1-8.

Copyright (Copyright © 2021, United States National Center for Health Statistics)

DOI unavailable

PMID unavailable

Abstract “Key findings
Data from the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality

Over the past 2 decades, the rate of unintentional drowning deaths among children aged 0–17 years declined 38%, from 1.6 per 100,000 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2019.

Unintentional drowning death rates among children were highest for those aged 1–4, with rates decreasing from 3.2 in 1999 to 2.4 in 2019.

In 1999–2019, unintentional drowning death rates were higher for non-Hispanic black children compared with non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children.

For the period, unintentional drowning death rates were higher for children in rural compared with urban counties.

During 2018–2019, the highest percentage of unintentional drowning deaths occurred in bathtubs for ages under 1 year, in swimming pools for ages 1–4 and 5–13, and in natural bodies of water for ages 14–17.

Drowning deaths are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children aged 0-17 years and the leading cause for those aged 1-4 (1). Previous studies using national data have shown that unintentional drowning deaths can differ by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and urban-rural category (2,3). This report uses the latest mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to present national trends in unintentional drowning death rates from 1999 through 2019 for children aged 0-17.

This report highlights differences in unintentional drowning death rates among children aged 0–17 years by sex, age group, race and ethnicity, urban–rural county of residence, and place of drowning. Overall, unintentional drowning death rates decreased from 1.6 per 100,000 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2019. Rates were higher for males than for females throughout the period. In 2019, the rate for males (1.4) was roughly twice that for females (0.6). While death rates declined for all age groups from 1999 through 2019, the rate for those aged 1–4 remained more than double the rates for other age groups. Throughout the period, rates were higher for non-Hispanic black children than for non-Hispanic white or Hispanic children. Rates were also consistently higher for children living in rural counties compared with urban counties. In 2018–2019, the place of drowning varied by age group. The greatest percentage of deaths occurred in bathtubs for those under 1 year, in swimming pools for those aged 1–4 and 5–13, and in natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans for those aged 14–17.”

Dorothy A. Drago, MA, MPH
11 Brookside Ave.
Plymouth, MA 02360
Cell 781-504-9996

DPF mourns the loss of one of its own

Dear Colleagues – It is with great sadness to report the passing of Dr. Joseph Paul Barankin, husband and love of her life to Catherine Barankin, Executive Director, CA Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health.


Joe passed away quietly at his home Thursday, August 15, 2019. He was a true renaissance man, and great champion for the children and youth of California. He was far more than his long 30+ career (1973-2006) at the California Department of Education as Assistant State Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Among the many benefits California and children received from Joe was as one of the founders of the Sacramento Boys and Girls Clubs, and in lieu of flowers you can contribute to the Sacramento Boys and Girls Clubs at


His much more personal Obituary is attached. The families memorial service is announced in the Obituary, and when a celebration of his life event is announced we will pass on that information.


Joe was a mentor, grant writing teacher and colleague who will be greatly missed.


Cards of sympathy and love can be sent to Cathy and his family at: 6100 Pirate Point Court, Elk Grove, CA 94758


Obituary for Dr. Joseph Paul Barankin


Dr. Joseph Paul Barankin passed quietly at his home on August 15, 2019.  Joe was a teacher, zealous advocate for children, cowboy, conservationist, musician, restauranteur, world traveler, and unconditional friend who touched the lives of so many.  Joe dedicated his life to education.  Whether it was family, friends, students, patrons, or a passerby on the street, Joe believed they had something to teach him, and he something to offer them.


His love of learning started early.  Joe was the child of two professors. A graduate of El Cerrito High School and San Francisco State University, he also earned a Ph.D. in Human Behavior and numerous teaching credentials.


Joe studied abroad in France and Japan, was fluent in three languages and semi-literate in numerous others. In addition to serving as unpaid tutor to his children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends, his professional teaching experience included the National Postal Ministry of Japan, John F. Kennedy University in Martinez, San Francisco State University, Berkeley’s University of California Extension, and National University.


Joe was talented, creative, and had an insatiable appetite for knowledge.  He took piano lessons as a child but preferred to play songs by ear rather than read music.  He was a masterful self-taught acoustic guitar player.  And his library is the envy of bibliophiles.


Joe loved life and extracted every ounce of enjoyment he could from it.  He traveled extensively, domestically and abroad.  He savored whiskeys, fine wines, and canned beers with equal relish – so long as he could share them with loved ones and friends.  And Joe was truly in his element when entertaining and bbq’ing for a crowd.


Joe wasn’t born into an outdoors family, but he created one.  He backpacked in the desolation wilderness as a young man and passed along his love of nature to his children at the Lake of the Woods.  He fancied himself something of a fisherman, revered wildlife of all kinds, and loved nothing more than spending a weekend with friends and family at their home on the Mokelumne River.


As a father, Joe defined the word “present.”  He was a fixture at his children’s sporting events, regularly volunteered as a coach or swim meet starter, never missed a musical or artistic performance, and engaged with teachers and coaches alike.  His love for children and helping them develop their full potential was his life’s work, exemplified in part by his decision to become a founding Board Member of the Sacramento Boys & Girls Club.


With the exception of billiards, few would confuse Joe with a world-class athlete.  But he was a fierce competitor on the recreational basketball court, softball field, and the occasional golf course.  He and his brother could execute a flawless pick and roll.   And there are few fans of the Sacramento Kings and San Francisco 49ers more devoted than Joe Barankin.


Joe is survived by the love of his life, his wife, Catherine.  It was rare for you to see Cathy or Joe without the other.  Joe is also survived by his son Nathan (Ann) and granddaughters Harper and Chloe, son Micha (Bea), and step-sons Barrett Sizemore (Sarah) and Phillip Nails (Elisabeth).


A memorial service will be held at West Point Cemetery at 1:00 pm on Sunday, August 18, to be followed by a reception celebrating Joe’s life at the Academy Club in West Point, CA.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Sacramento Boys & Girls Club.



Drowning Rates Drop Thanks to New Laws

Copied from California Healthline (July 22, 2019):

Some welcome news at the height of summer swimming season: Children are far less likely to drown in California than they were in the 1980s — and child drowning rates have continued to fall even in the past decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nation as a whole has experienced a similar, though less dramatic, decline, with drowning rates for children age 14 and younger now about one-third of what they were in the early 1980s.

Experts say state and local laws that require more fencing and security features around family swimming pools have made a difference, along with increased awareness of the dangers of letting young children swim alone.

From 1980 to 1982, 586 California children age 14 and younger died in accidental drownings, a rate of 3.7 deaths per 100,000 children, federal data show. The pace fell sharply in the 1990s, to a rate of about 1.4 deaths per 100,000 from 1999 to 2001. From 2015 to 2017, 186 children drowned in California. That figure translates to 0.8 drownings per 100,000 children.

Nationally, the drowning rate for children age 14 and younger was 2.9 per 100,000 over three years from 1980 to 1982 (4,417 deaths). By comparison, from 2015 to 2017, that rate fell to 1.1 per 100,000 (2,051 deaths).

Despite the improvements, drowning remains the nation’s leading injury-related cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and children in that age group are most likely to drown in a swimming pool rather than a natural body of water. Highly publicized cases, like the June death of River Smith, the 3-year-old son of country singer Granger Smith, are a reminder of the risks. River drowned in the pool at his family’s Texas home, while his father and siblings played nearby.

“Often drowning is silent; it happens in 20 to 60 seconds,” said Adam Katchmarchi, executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. “Parents don’t realize how quickly that can happen to their children.”

Nadina Riggsbee, founder and president of the California-based Drowning Prevention Foundation, said the sharp decline in accidental drownings in California is a direct outgrowth of strict uniform building codes.

“We have the strongest, most stringent pool-fencing law in the nation, in the world, actually,” Riggsbee said. “We suggest to other states: Why don’t you mirror the California law?”

Riggsbee’s 2-year-old-daughter died and her 14-month-old son was severely injured in the late 1970s when a babysitter briefly left the two unattended at their home in San Ramon, a city in Contra Costa County. The babysitter had neglected to lock a sliding door after letting out the family dog, and the children exited through the door to the pool.

A few years later, Contra Costa County became the first county in the nation to pass a regulation requiring fencing around pools, Riggsbee said. She and other advocates pressed other communities to adopt similar ordinances. Their greatest success came in the late 1990s, when the state legislature passed the Swimming Pool Safety Act.

The statewide law requires that new pools are accompanied by one of the following safety features: a fence that separates the pool from a home; a robust pool safety cover; exit alarms on doors leading from the home to the pool area; self-closing and self-latching doors leading from the home to the pool area; or a safety device as effective as those four measures.

In 1995 and 1996, before the law took effect, 269 California children died from accidental drowning. By comparison, in 2016 and 2017, 125 California children drowned — a drop of more than 50%.

The law was amended in the mid-2000s to allow for two other types of safety measures: a pool alarm that sounds upon unauthorized entry into the water, or a removable mesh pool fence with self-closing, self-latching doors.

National safety organizations continue to push for more states and cities to adopt uniform standards and have embraced as a model the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code. The code requires physical barriers around pools and sets standards on gates and latches. So far, 21 states and more than 180 local agencies have adopted the code, industry data show.

Even with statewide standards, child drowning rates vary across California. Counties in the state’s arid Central Valley — known for its long, scorching summers — tend to have higher child drowning rates than the rest of the state.

“There are more days and months of heat,” Riggsbee said. “The families are using the pools more frequently.”

Riggsbee and other advocates hope a California law enacted last year will result in even fewer child drownings in years to come. Under the law, newly installed or remodeled private pools must feature two safety measures, rather than just one.

Drowning Rates Dropped

Child Drowning Rates Drop As Communities Adopt Stricter Building Codes

Some welcome news at the height of summer swimming season: Children are far less likely to drown in California than they were in the 1980s — and child drowning rates have continued to fall even in the past decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nation as a whole has experienced a similar, though less dramatic, decline, with drowning rates for children age 14 and younger now about one-third of what they were in the early 1980s.

CLICK HERE for more details.

American Academy of Pediatrics Clinic

On March 25, 2018 Marcia Kerr staffed a Drowning Prevention Foundation pool safety information table at the Clinic in the Park sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Orange County Chapter, in Irvine, CA.

Sharing the table was Alexa Pratt with the Orange County Fire Authority for the Orange County Task Force on Downing Prevention and Kevin Hua, clinic volunteer and Cal State University, Fullerton student.

Interactive materials from the Drowning Prevention Foundation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission/Pool Safely, the Orange County Fire Authority and the American Academy of Pediatrics were distributed.

The Easter Bunny made a special appearance at the table to promote water safety this spring and summer!

SB 442 Signed into Law

Great news!!   California Governor Brown signed the state pool barrier bill SB 442 Authored by Senator Josh Newson and Co-Authored by Nancy Skinner.

The cosponsors of SB 442 was the Drowning Prevention Foundation and the California Coalition for Children’s Safety & Health.

State of California not only first to pass a fencing law internationally in (Contra Costa County) initiated by DPF founder Nadina Riggsbee, first to pass state bill AB3305, supported by many Drowning Prevention advocates throughout the state, and now again first and only state in the US to have a double product barrier law.  A major part of the new law is when home is sold and does not have two barriers protecting small children from drowning in backyard pools they are considered defective!


Drowned Children’s Parents and First Responders Meet with State Senator Authoring Drowning Prevention Law Changes

Press Release for Immediate Release – Friday, June 16, 2017

Contacts: Steve Barrow, CA Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health (CCCSH) or cell 530 902-5551 or Marcia Kerr, So.CA Representative Drowning Prevention Foundation,, 949-300-0394

Drowned Children’s Parents and First Responders

Meet with State Senator Authoring Drowning Prevention Law Changes

Today, in the southern California city of Fullerton parents who have lost a child due to a pool drowning and first responder representatives met with Senator Newman, who is authoring legislation to address residential pool drowning. Nicky, Jasper, Cody, and Jasmine are children under the age of five, who died due to backyard pool drowning. They were represented by their parents in the meeting and press event with the Senator, to discuss the hard realities drowning has on children’s siblings, parents, family and community. First responder and Children’s Hospital Orange County, representatives experienced in the trauma of drowning joined the meeting and press conference. The purpose of the meeting and follow up press conference was to discuss how state level policies impact local efforts to stop drowning as the leading cause of death for California’s one to four year old population.[1]


Drowning is preventable,” stressed Marcia Kerr, who lives in Orange County and lost her son Cody at age two due to pool drowning. “We need every parent, caregiver and pool owner to better understand how these preventable tragedies can be avoided. Each of the children’s drowning stories displayed at this event are heart wrenching and hard to see and read, but these are true stories. They help us all have a better understanding about the realities of backyard drowning, and therefore better enabled to understand what needs to be done to prevent drowning before it

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 happens. Unfortunately the reality is that in California, that for every child that suffers a fatal drowning, another five children drown, but are revived, with many suffering permanent brain damage.

According to California’s Department of Public Health EPICenter ( and Center for Disease Control (WISQARS[2] – Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) drowning is the leading cause of death for California’s children ages one through four years old. A recent review of California’s EPICenter data found that from 2010 to 2014 more than 160 children aged one through four years old suffered a fatal drowning, with the majority of these young child drowning incidents involving residential pools. From 2010 to 2015 over 740 California children ages one through four years old were hospitalized due to a “near-drowning” incident, with the vast majority of these hospitalizations the result of brain injury due to asphyxiation suffered during the drowning incident. The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which provides care for California children and adults with major brain injury, reported that as of December 2016, the largest group of clients cared for by DDS were associated with drowning incidents. DDS has more than 755 clients in its care who suffered a drowning incident when they were younger children.

“It is a tragedy that some parents, pool owners and policy makers still believe caregivers can keep young children safe, from reaching the to a pool, solely due to parents’ innate understanding how to prevent drowning,” stresses Kerr, “Parents, babysitters, and caregivers need the help of pool safety barriers to keep kids from unexpectedly accessing the pool unsupervised. It only takes a minute to lose track of an active young child, all parents know this, and without something like multiple levels of a pool fence, cover or alarms, your kids can and will get to the pool, and can drown – silently – within one to two minutes. Mine did, and I live with that every day!”

“It is a painful reality of life that as a parent it is not possible to be with our children 24/7 and able to protect them,” states Julie Lopiccolo, Jasper’s mom, “at times, all parents leave their children to be cared for by a relative, neighbor, or babysitter.  Our regular babysitter was watching our son Jasper, who was an active, smart and curious 21 month old.  Without our permission, she brought him to her home next door, where Jasper accessed a backyard pool and drowned. The babysitter had been instructed not to leave our house, where there was no pool, but did. I believe, that if only

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her pool would have had some warning system or barriers built in our Jasper would be alive and with us today. No matter how responsible of a parent I was, I could not protect Jasper from that unfenced pool because I did not know he was there and the owners of the home, like so many others each and every year, failed to recognize the risk the pool on their property created to the life of a curious child.”

“My son Nicky was lost to a pool drowning when he was just being a typical kid,” says Carol Norman, whose 5 year old son drowned in a neighbor’s pool, “he was playing with neighborhood kids, went into a neighbor’s home, where the door to the pool alarm was disabled, invited to swim by his five year old friend, unsupervised, and drowned. We provide multiple safety barriers when it comes to other things that create risk for our kids, such as cars, medications, food, cross walks, etc., but do not do the same with pools. Parents and pool owners need to have the help of multiple barriers, so they never suffer a loss of their child, like I did.”

To prevent residential pool drowning we need all parents, caregivers and pool owners to understand five things:” stresses Steve Barrow of California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, “Here are a few drowning prevention things to know, with the most important one being the reality that all bodies of water come with risk, including pools and other open bodies of water (not in priority order):

  • To prevent drowning parents and caregivers for children should have thought through a drowning prevention strategy before taking a child to the water; such as who will provide active supervision, what the child is allowed to do while at the water, wearing U.S. Coast Guard approved safety life vests when appropriate, who will rescue the child if they get into trouble
  • No young child should be allowed to access a backyard pool unless there is active supervision of a water safe parent or adult, meaning no further than arms length away, while the child is at the pool or in the pool
  • Water safety and swim lessons are essential life skills that all adults and children should have to help prevent drowning
  • At least two pool safety barriers should be in place for all residential pools, such as isolation fencing, pool covers, door and in-water pool alarms, to help parents, caregivers and pool owners prevent a young child from accessing the pool unsupervised.”

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Pools are an important part of California families’ landscape. And, like all types of water, pools can pose a risk of drowning for young children, but drowning is preventable. That is why California’s pool builders have worked hard to join the Drowning Prevention Foundation and many others to support statewide policies that will make sure all of our pools are safe,” States Terry Snow from Independent Pool and Spa Service Association and California Pool and Spa Association, “Water safety and swimming lessons are important life skills we should all have, and for young children we also need to make sure they can never access a pool without the active supervision of a parent or adult. The drowning stories displayed at this press event shows us the hard lessons about drowning, and set the stage for pushing forward statewide policies that will make all pools safe in California.”

 “Childhood drowning is a costly issue for our state’s healthcare system and taxpayers,” stresses Steve Barrow, Program Director CA Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, drowning prevention legislative sponsor, “according to our state’s EPICenter data between 2003 and 2013 drowning incidents cost $1.6 billion in healthcare costs. The annual medical and wage loss costs of young children drowning incidents is more than $205 million a year in California.

Affected parent, who have lost a child due to pool drowning contact information:

Marcia Kerr, Cody’s mom,, 949-300-0394

Nadina Riggsbee, Samira and JJ’s mom,, 707-747-0191

Julie Lopiccolo and Jonathan St. Clair, Jasper’s parents,,, 714-997-7870

Carol Norman, Nicky’s mom,, 619-886-0556

Kimberley Hodges, Brandon’s mom,, 951-897-4545

[1] Drowning as the leading cause of death for California’s 1 to 4 year old population is based on data from CA’s Department of Public Health EPICenter data (  and Center for Disease Control’s Injury Prevention and WISQARS injury data system (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) data center

[2] Ibid

Letter of Support

April 18, 2017


Senator Jose Newman

State Capitol

Sacramento, CA 95814


Re: SB 442 (Newman) Pool Drowning Prevention – Co-Sponsor and Support


The Drowning Prevention Foundation is one of the oldest and leading organizations working on ending drowning incidents in California. We are proud to co-sponsor and support SB 442 and your efforts to protect California’s young children from residential pool drowning. Your bill provides an important update to our twenty year old Pool Safety Act, which we were involved in passing back in 1996. This bill, SB 442, covers one of the Top Ten issues lifted from the CA Unintentional Injury Prevention Strategic Plan Project. Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death and hospitalization for California’s children and youth ages 1-19 and the leading cause of injury related death for babies and infants. Drowning is the leading cause of injury related deaths for California’s children ages one to four.


For every one child that drowns and dies, 4-5 others are hospitalized due to suffering a “near-drowning” incident, which can lead to life-long brain damage due to lack of oxygen during the drowning incident. One near drowning victim with brain damage can result in more than $5 million in hospital costs.


Drowning incidents cost California’s health care system more than $195 million a year. There are many other healthcare and societal costs association with near drowning not reflected in the $195 million annual price tag.  For example near drowning survivors make up one of the largest populations cared for by California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS). DDS reports it has more than 770 near downing clients on its current roster of those being cared for by DDS.


SB 442 updates one of our state’s efforts to end residential pool drowning or at least make it a very rare event. The bill does four things:

  • There are seven different types of pool safety barrier options available to pool owners. Pool safety barriers prevent children from getting to a residential pool unsupervised and range from door alarms, in-pool alarms, isolations fencing, to safety covers. This bill increases the required number of safety barriers preventing a child from getting to a pool unsupervised from one barrier to two, but retains the pool owner’s option to choose the barriers that work for their pool
  • Pool door alarms currently allow only a shrill siren noise. The bill allows pool owners the option of using a shrill door alarm or an audible warning (“Door to pool is open, Door to pool is open, …..)
  • The bill makes compliance with the Pool Safety Act an item for the disclosure and defect homeowner report upon the sale of a home with a pool, instead of a condition upon the sale of the home. California’s Realtor Industry association recommended the disclosure format as the most effect format upon sale of a home, and with that amendment removed opposition to the bill.
  • The bill brings uniformity to residential pool safety laws and ordinances by providing the state law as the standard for pool safety.


If you have any questions about the Drowning Prevention Foundation or our support for SB 442 contact Board Member Cathy Barankin at


Yours Truly

Nadina Riggsbee, Founder and President

Drowning Prevention Foundation

Advisory: Parents of Drowning Victims, First Responder, Children’s Hospital Doctor to meet with Senator Newman to discuss Drowning Prevention

For Immediate Release:                                                                               Contact: Lisa Murphy

June 14, 2017                                                                                                            (916) 651-1979


Advisory: Parents of Drowning Victims, First Responder, Children’s Hospital Doctor to meet with Senator Newman to discuss Drowning Prevention


Newman is author of SB 442 which updates the 20 year old Pool Safety Act


Fullerton, CA– Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) will meet on Friday in Fullerton with parents who have lost a child due to pool drowning, first responders, a children’s hospital trauma doctor, and pool industry representatives. At the Fullerton Community Center, the group will discuss the disproportional impact pool drowning has had on southern California families and communities. The group will also discuss Senator Newman’s SB 442, a bill which updates California’s 20-year old residential Pool Safety Act, to add additional safeguards to prevent further drowning incidents.


After their meeting, Senator Newman and the coalition will make themselves available to the press to discuss the implications of losing a child to drowning, how to prevent drowning, and SB 442’s role in moving drowning prevention policies forward across our state.


  • WHAT: Press availability with Senator Newman, affected families and parents, first responder, local drowning prevention leaders and Children’s Hospital Orange County trauma/PICU doctor


  • WHEN:  10:15 a.m., Friday, June 16, 2017


  • WHERE: Fullerton Community Center

340 W Commonwealth Ave

Fullerton, CA 92832

(Entrance south side of the building, off of the south side parking lot)


  • VISUALS: Stories and images of young victims of pool drowning, Fullerton community center pool, first responders and families


Open to all credentialed media – Please send questions and RSVP to