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McKnight, Vainieri Huttle & Chaparro Bill to Increase Awareness of ‘Dry Drowning’ Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Annette Chaparro to provide parents and caregivers of children with critical information that can save the lives of young swimmers in New Jersey was advanced by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-1429) would require municipalities that have public swimming pools to provide information regarding “dry drowning,” which occurs when someone inhales water into his or her lungs but does not display any symptoms of distress until after leaving the water. Children are most often affected.

“The notion that a child can seem perfectly fine during a fun day at the pool and then be near death hours after leaving is terrifying for any parent,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Making sure parents and caregivers know to look out for the signs of dry drowning can save children’s lives in New Jersey.”

The measure would require the Department of Community Affairs, in consultation with the Department of Health, to design, produce and distribute a poster and a one-page information pamphlet on dry drowning and its symptoms to each municipality in which a public pool is located. Municipalities would then be required to place the poster in a prominent area at each public pool. Municipalities also would be required to provide residents with a copy of the pamphlet annually, either upon their registration for pool membership or at the pool during the first two weeks it is open.

“The goal of this bill is to raise awareness for parents and caregivers who, in many cases, are unaware that dry drowning is something that even exists,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Young children and their guardians should be able to enjoy playing in a swimming pool on a hot summer day with minimal stress and, by making this critical information both available and visible, that can happen.”

Dry drowning causes breathing difficulties due to airway muscle spasms, which ultimately can lead to asphyxiation. Symptoms, which may not appear until hours after a swimmer leaves the water, include: coughing, labored breathing, fatigue and vomiting.

“Dry drowning can cause rare but fatal injuries, particularly among infants,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “In most cases, symptoms are not apparent to parents and could appear days after a child has been swimming. We need to do our part in New Jersey by making parents and guardians more aware of what to look for in these situations so we can keep our children safe.”