Confidential Study Warns Of 'Serious Injury Or Deaths' From Drain Covers Used In Millions of US Pools


SIDE VIEW OF POOL DRAIN COVER

Aquastar sent a letter to retailers telling them that it had decided to discontinue the product, and asked retailers to send unsold units back. "As a distributor or dealer that has purchased this model in the past," said the letter, "this is to notify you that this model is NOT to be sold until further notice, we will no longer be manufacturing this model, and ... we must replace all existing inventory with a certified comparable model."

Aquastar cofounder Wade Arens told ABC News that the company decided to discontinue the product "within 24 hours" of learning of the ANSI test results.

"We said, 'Let's take this off the market and improve it and exceed the standard,' " he explained. He added, however, that he did not believe that the LP8AV drain cover in the ANSI retest was properly installed, and that his company makes 103 different drain covers, all of them compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

A second Aquastar cover, the 32CDFL, was retested by ANSI for "hair entanglement," and also produced flow rates lower than earlier published results.

Arens said that about 8,000 unsold LP8AV drain covers had been returned from retailers in California and Arizona since the letter was sent out. The letter did not notify consumers that the product had been discontinued, however, nor did it recall existing drain covers already sold and installed in pools. Arens said Aquastar has sold "millions" of drain covers nationwide, and while he could not provide a national estimate for the LP8AV model, said there were probably 8,000 to 12,000 LP8AV covers still in use in pools in Arizona and California.

Safety advocate Paul Pennington, president of the Pool Safety Council, blasted the Aquastar recall as inadequate. "It only pulls the drain covers from the distributors," he said. "It does not pull the drain covers that are installed in public pools." Pennington said he believes the CPSC should issue a nationwide recall of the LP8AV cover, a product he has been criticizing for years.

Reza Afshar, president of AFRAS, maker of the ABF64 cover, said AFRAS has been selling that cover since the 1980s and has always been in compliance with federal standards. He challenged the results of the ANSI test, which showed a lower flow rate than previously reported.

"We have sold over a million of these drains, and we've never had a single entrapment issue, to my knowledge," said Afshar. "That's why I question the integrity of the ANSI test."

Representatives of Paramount, makers of the SDX drain cover, did not respond to an ABC News request for comment. ANSI's re-test of the SDX produced the same flow rate as the manufacturer's original results, 200 gallons per minute. A separate test conducted by NSF and cited by ANSI, however, suggested that the flow rate might be 117.

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