May 26, 2011 -- In its largest ever pool drain cover recall, the government's lead consumer watchdog has recalled almost 1 million pool and hot tub drain covers because of a drowning risk.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said that pool owners should stop using dozens of different models made by eight different companies "immediately" because improper safety ratings mean the products "could pose a possible entrapment hazard to swimmers and bathers." The recall comes nine months after ABC News revealed that millions of backyard pool drain covers may have been improperly tested for safety and might pose entrapment risks.
"I want to make it clear that this recall announcement does not mean that one million drain covers will need to be replaced or repaired," said CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum, who announced the massive recall Thursday during a pool safety event near San Diego, "[but] pool operators and homeowners should contact the maker of their drain covers to see what action, if any, is needed to make their individual pool or spa safe."
The models subject to recall were manufactured by A & A, Aquastar, Color Match, Custom Molded Products, Hayward Pool Products, Pentair Water Pool & Spa, Rising Dragon and Waterway, and were marked with the improper water flow rating. In a statement, the CPSC said the recall was undertaken with the cooperation of the manufacturers, and that "pool owners/operators and consumers who have one of the recalled pool or spa drain covers should immediately contact the manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit, depending on their make and model. "
Said Tenenbaum, "If you know or if your pool service company tells you that drain covers made by one of these manufacturers were installed in your pool or spa -- call them right away."
Is Your Pool Drain Cover Being Recalled? READ the list of recalled drain covers here.
The vacuum effect in pool drains is powerful enough to hold swimmers, especially children, to the bottom of a pool. Contact between human skin and a flat pool drain can create suction equal to hundreds of pounds of pressure.
At least 11 people are known to have died from entrapment from heavy suction by pool drains since 1999, including 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, whose death by drain entrapment in 2002 spurred the passage of a pool safety law named for her five years later. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act created stricter anti-suction standards for pool drain products.
Nancy Baker, mother of Virginia Graeme Baker, applauded the CPSC's drain cover recall. "If it results in having these drain covers recalled and having the safer covers put in place that are now in compliance with the law, then it's fulfilling the intent of what we set out to do when we got the law passed," said Baker. Baker was present when her daughter died by pool drain entrapment. "It's very important that pool drains are safer because I have seen firsthand the horrible effects of what happens and lived with the aftermath of what happens if they're unsafe."
The CPSC says it is not aware of any drain entrapment deaths in the U.S. so far in 2011. Last December, a 33-year-old Missouri man died in a hot tub drain entrapment incident at a resort in the Bahamas.