Twice as many boys 4 years old and younger drown than girls the same age, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, urging parents to be alert and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out why.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) presented an analysis of the CDC's latest statistics on drowning deaths, which he said show a stark divide between boys and girls, at a news conference Sunday morning at the John Jay Pool in Manhattan. And in a letter to the CDC, he is urging it to investigate these trends and create an outreach program for parents of young children.
"Amidst the most popular months for swimming and the dog days of summer that find more and more kids in and around pools, we must sound the alarm on this trend and demand new action from the federal government," Schumer said in a statement. "The CDC should be commended for keeping these detailed records, but what good is the data unless we use it to save lives?"
A CDC representative was not available to comment.
Statistics have long shown that drowning poses a risk for children.
But an analysis by Schumer's office determined that in 2016, 306 boys 4 years old and younger drowned, almost twice the number of girls the same age who died.
For boys, that was about a 13 percent rise from 2014, when 270 drowned. Though the number of girls who drowned also rose, it was by a smaller percentage: almost 7 percent, from 147 to 157, the analysis shows.
"This data shows that boys drown at almost double the rate of the girls, indicating that gender-specific behavior and activities plays a major role in drowning accidents," Schumer wrote the CDC. "I request that the CDC investigate the main causes of drowning in this young population, as well as study why boys are so much more susceptible to drowning than girls."
For 1- to 4-year-olds in the United States, drowning is the leading cause of death. Two years ago, 425 children in this age group drowned, the CDC says. In comparison, 334 died from "motor vehicle traffic." Suffocation and fire/burns each claimed just over 100 lives, the CDC says.
Since 2000, an average of 100 New Yorkers have drowned every year, Schumer said, citing data compiled by the state Department of Health.
Many of them are youngsters.
A 2-year-old girl was found unresponsive in her family's Dix Hills pool on July 9, and she was later listed in critical condition at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip. No changes were reported in her condition, Suffolk police said on Sunday.
Last summer, officials said 3-year-old twin boys drowned in a backyard pool in Melville despite the desperate efforts of their mother and emergency responders.
“It is tragic accidents like this, of toddler kids, that put a giant hole in your heart and should spur us to do all we can at the federal level to keep such young lives from being lost to drowning,” Schumer said.
For infants younger than 1, bathtubs posed the worst danger, responsible for nearly 63 percent of the drowning deaths for that age group between 1999 and 2010, the CDC said.
Swimming pools, meanwhile, claimed the lives of 51 percent of the children, 1 to 4 years old, who died by drowning. They were almost as dangerous for children 5 to 9 years old: That percentage was 34 percent, the CDC said.
For years, the federal agency has spotlighted the high risk of drowning for youngsters. It advises learning swimming basics, installing four-sided fences around all backyard pools, wearing life jackets, being “on the look out” when children are bathing or swimming, and avoiding distractions such as talking on the telephone, reading, playing cards, and imbibing alcohol or drugs.
"These are tragic and often preventable deaths, but parents need to be educated as to how to prevent them," Schumer wrote. "This is particularly critical for the parents of boy toddlers, who may be unaware that their son is at greater risk of drowning."
Calling on the CDC to collaborate with local and state officials on education prevention programs, he added: "I am confident that with a concerted effort we can reverse this trend."
With Craig Schneider