Black children are dying at a startling rate, not just by gunfire on the streets – but they are now six times more likely to drown in swimming pools than white children the same age.

The statistics are deeply disturbing.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product  Safety Commission’s new pool safety report, African American and Hispanic children from five the 14 years old are at greater risk of drowning in a pool.

Here are a few sobering highlights from CPSC report:

•       Children between the ages of 1 and 3 represented 67 percent of reported fatalities and 64 percent of injuries.

•       African American children between the ages of 5 and 14 are six times more likely to drown in pools than white and Hispanic children that age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

•       Data from USA Swimming indicate that 70 percent of African American children and 62 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, making them more likely to drown.

“Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 and minority children drown in pools at an alarming rate,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “The lives of countless children can be saved this summer.  Take simple safety steps today—teach all children to swim, put a fence around all pools, and always watch children in and around the water.”

In August, CPSC will host a booth for the first time at the Tom Joyner Family Reunion in Orlando, Florida where CPSC representatives will distribute safety information to the community as well as work on safety outreach in the community.

A few years ago, I wrote a column about black children drowning in pools across the country and I pleaded with black parents to teach their children how to swim. Sadly, the situation seems to be getting worse, more black children are drowning, and I find myself making the same plea again today.

Summer is quickly approaching and black parents need to wake up: Call your local YMCA or YWCA or Red Cross and teach your child to swim. In many cases, it’s free – and it can save your child’s life.

So what’s the holdup?

My mother taught me to swim when I was about eight years old and I’ve been swimming – and scuba diving – ever since. And I taught my daughter to swim when she was five years old.

“Learning how to swim saves lives,” said Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the American Red Cross. “The American Red Cross encourages all families to enroll in Learn-to-Swim programs by contacting your local pool.” Families can learn about Red Cross programs and find water safety tips by going to

Learning to swim not only saves lives, but it’s also a great sport that can help keep our children in good physical condition and help them shed pounds if they are overweight.

New data from CPSC’s 2013 Submersion Report compiles information on reported pool or spa-related drownings between 2008 and 2010 and estimated pool or spa-related injuries from 2010 through 2012 for children younger than 15. The estimated averages for the three-year periods represented show:

•       Residential locations dominated incidents involving victims younger than 5 years of age; 85 percent of the fatalities occurred at residential pools or spas. About 50 percent of the injuries and 73 percent of the fatalities involving children younger than 15 years occurred at a residence.

•       Of the reported pool fatalities for children younger than age 15, about 60 percent (231) occurred in in-ground pools; 15 percent (59) in above-ground pools, and nearly 10 percent (37) in portable pools.

•       There were no reported entrapment fatalities for 2012. The last recorded fatality of a child due to suction entrapment was in 2007. CPSC received seven reports of entrapment injury incidents during 2012.

“Working together, we can improve the safety of all pools and spas by increasing the use of layers of protection and promoting uninterrupted supervision to prevent child drowning and entrapment,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “With government programs like the CPSC’s Pool Safely, people can learn simple steps to take to save lives.”

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