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Are certain pool drain covers dangerous for consumers?

A previous post discussed whether alarms for swimming pools and hot tubs were effective to prevent drowning. Now, more concern has been raised over whether drain covers for swimming pools and hot tubs are failing to protect against the very danger they are meant to prevent.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission launched an investigation into certain models of drain covers to determine whether incorrect testing procedures are letting dangerous products get to consumers. Research by an independent laboratory shows that the drain covers have safety problems that can cause severe injuries and potentially even death.

Despite these warnings and other reports of dangerous suction, the CPSC is still investigating some of the manufacturers of certain pool drains and has not made any public announcement about the possible dangers.

Typically, pumps keep water moving through filters so that pools stay clean. In order to do that, drains are used to move the water. A pool's pump can act like a strong vacuum if a drain cover is missing or broken. In fact, there had been almost 100 reports of people getting caught in the drain's suction in a period of 10 years; a dozen people were killed after being trapped by drains.

The current dispute is whether manufacturing companies are not properly testing the drain covers according to federal standards. An investigation revealed that the testing procedure wasn't an accurate imitation of what actually happens if a person gets trapped in a pool. Additionally, one model that was tested wouldn't work as it was supposed to in any pool or hot tub.

Though the CPSC is still investigating the entrapment reports, the big question is whether more consumers will sustain injuries from the potentially dangerous pool drain covers. Though a representative of one manufacturer maintains that the product is not dangerous, one consumer tested it himself and found that he, a grown man, was momentarily trapped by the strong suction. Even if the drain covers that exist currently allowed for the man to roll free, there is still a danger for children who may get stuck and are unable to free themselves.

Source: Chicago Tribune online, "The danger that lurks underwater," Patricia Callahan, 07 February 2011

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