CPSC Pool and Spa Drain Investigation Reveals Entrapment Risks

Federal investigators say that laboratories used to test whether pool and spa drains are safe may not be using correct testing protocols, resulting in drains that could create enough suction to entrap limbs or potentially cause children to drown.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced on March 18 that it was conducting an investigation into pool and spa drain cover safety and the laboratories that certify them. Initial investigation results have led the CPSC to suspect that testing protocols used by some labs may be incorrect, and that some drain covers they have certified are not actually safe.

Under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SSAct) of 2007, public pools and spas have to have drain covers that are certified as being designed to prevent entrapment. The law was enacted to prevent swimmers, particularly children, from becoming trapped by suction from a pool or spa drain or other opening that could result in death by drowning.

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The CPSC has subpoenaed three drain cover testing labs for information on their protocols, the types of covers they test and their results. CPSC investigators are going through 17,000 pages of documents obtained from the three unidentified laboratories.

A report on pool and spa accidents (pdf) released last year by the CPSC stated that there was an average of 4,200 pool or spa-related emergency room-treated submersion injuries each year from 2007 through 2009. The report also found that there were about 385 pool or spa related deaths per year from 2005 through 2007, when the P&SSAct was passed. The law went into effect in December 2008. 

Nearly half of all pool and spa-related injuries happen to children under the age of three. Children under the age of 15 represented 53% of all pool and spa fatalities from 2005 through 2007.

The CPSC expects to have a public meeting on April 5, where laboratories, drain cover manufacturers and other pool and spa industry leaders will be questioned on the effectiveness of their safety measures and testing procedures. The agency hopes to have a report for the public by Memorial Day weekend, which typically is the launch of the summer, and swimming, season.

Tags: Drowning, Pool


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