Diving Into Summertime

Making sure kids are safe around the swimming pool is an issue close to Marcia Kerr's heart.

It's been 20 years since Kerr's 2-year-old son drowned in her home's swimming pool, a tragedy that happened while Kerr and her husband were making a living selling safety pool covers.

The pool had just been cleaned and the Kerrs had left off the cover to air out the chemicals.

"Right before we put the cover back on, my son went out the back door, which was not locked," said Kerr, who has spent the last 16 years working as a product safety investigator for the Consumer Products Safety Commission, in part because of the tragedy. "He actually got into the water and drowned."

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As families gear up for the Memorial Day weekend, officials, parents and swim instructors are talking about how to make pools safe and healthy for children this summer.

Whether examining the risks for illnesses posed by swimming or assessing the safety of pool products and drains, they're advocating that parents keep a watchful eye on kids and take several steps to prevent both drowning and health hazards.

Keeping Kids Healthy

Gearing up for the holiday weekend, parents should be aware of illnesses and germs that chlorine can't kill.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released news about the parasite Crypto that lives in pools and water parks. There were more cases of Crypto in 2007 than ever before and the CDC warns that this summer could bring more of the same.

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The bottom line is to keep kids clean to prevent Crypto from spreading.

"People need to practice healthy swimming habits, such as not swimming when they have diarrhea, not swallowing the water, taking a shower before swimming, washing their hands after using the toilet or changing diapers, and washing their children thoroughly -- especially their bottoms -- with soap and water before swimming," CDC epidemiologist Michele Hlavsa said in a statement released Monday. "To prevent outbreaks, we encourage pool operators to add supplemental disinfection to conventional chlorination and filtration methods."

Crypto can spread when swimmers accidentally swallow contaminated water in pools, lakes, rivers or oceans. The number of cases of Crypto tripled between 2004 and 2007.

Keeping Kids Safe

A report released this morning by the CPSC also reveals that there has been an increase in the number of pool and spa drowning deaths among children ages 5 and younger, according to the newest three-year averages available.

Children between the ages of 1 and 2 at home pools were found to make up most of those injuries and deaths. Today, drowning remains the leading cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

Miriam Wermelt, a mother of two children younger than 4, said she's taking several precautions as she plans to host a pool party this weekend. Wermelt said the pool has a high fence, as well as an alarm system. She plans for one parent to be in the water for every two children.

"I just always feel that at this age, it's better to be safe than sorry," Wermelt said. "They do tire, they do sometimes just get overexcited."

CPSC data released today shows that an average of 267 kids died from drowning each year between 2002 and 2004; that number rose to 283 between 2003 and 2005.

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