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How Safe Is Your Pool?

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, July 20, 2009 4:37 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Anti-Entrapment Device, Pool Safety, Virginia Graeme Baker Act, Swimming Pools, Pool Drain

New pool drains are supposed to be in public pools, but estimates are half are out of compliance. 

How Safe is Your Pool?


Virginia Graeme Baker died in a hot tub accident in 2002.
Virginia Graeme Baker Image/ About.com Web site 


IMAGE SOURCE:  AQUASTAR  Pool Drain in comopliance/ AQUASTAR  Web site 


Thousands of public swimming pools may be in violation of a new federal safety rule, says a national consumer group.

The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) estimates about half of the pools your child is using this summer may have failed to install the new required anti-entrapment devices.

There are an estimated 300,000 public pools in hotels, schools, camps and parks.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is in charge of enforcing the new law, named for Virginia Graeme Baker, who drowned in 2002 when suction from a hot tub drain kept her pulled to the bottom and no adult could free her.  The NSPF estimates about half of the public pools that are supposed to be retrofitted with the new dome-style drains have not been updated. 

George Pellington of the Pool Safety Council told CBS that he’s seen the unsafe drain covers in many pools that have not yet complied with the law.

He says, “A body can actually seal off these covers and large forces on the order of 500 to 700 pounds could hold the bather down to the drain,” and there is no way human force can dislodge the child.       

The problem has been three-fold- there is not enough enforcement; there are not enough drains; and not enough pool owners understand the new code. 

At a cost of $1,000 to $15,000 per pool, including installation, that may present too heavy a financial burden for local government. The CPSC can fine pool owners and close the pool if it is not up to code.  

In addition, pools with a single drain are required to install a second drain system, or an external shut-off.

Many in the pool industry feel that with multiple-drain pools, there is not the same intense pull as a single drain. Most drownings occur in single drain pools.

And it doesn’t matter if a pool has large multiple-drains that are not connected directly to the pump. All of the pools, newer, municipal, hotel, are supposed to change to the anti-entrapment drains.   

There may be no way to actually enforce the law as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) chair at the time said Congress did not give her agency the $7 million it needed to enforce the law it passed  in 2007.   

What can parents do?

  • Look for drain covers that are dome or pyramid shaped that prevent suction to take hold as a flat drain cover does. Some of the newer drain covers are also flat. Check the certification.

The CPSC recognizes three organizations that conduct testing on drain covers and issue certification. They are: the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

  • And if a child or adult is trapped, you can break the suction by turning off the pump for the pool. Then break the suction by putting your arm between the person and roll them off.   

In May 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report on pool and spa submersions involving children under the age of 5.

It finds :  

  • Each year there are nearly 300 reported drownings involving children younger than five years old.

    Drowning is the second leading cause of death of accidental death of children under the age of 14, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A child can drown in as little as one inch of water. They can lose consciousness in two minutes and have irreversible brain damage in four to six minutes.

  • Each year there are about 3,000 emergency room-treated submersion injuries to children younger than five years old.

In addition, there have been 83 reported entrapment incidents reported to the CPSC from 1999 through 2008. Among these are eleven fatality reports, including the accident that ended Virginia Graeme Baker's life. 

It was the very public tragic drowning in 2002 of Virginia Graeme Baker, granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, for whom the bill is named. Even with adults trying to pry her off of the powerful suction of a spa drain, she drowned.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted by Congress and signed into law on December 19, 2007.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that for each drowning there are up to four more children who nearly drown, some serious enough to require hospitalization. Many are permanently disabled.  #

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