Earlier this month, an 8-year-old boy was rushed to a hospital after he nearly drowned in an apartment pool. The boy was playing in an apartment pool in Lakewood, with others when bystanders noticed he was unresponsive. The bystanders pulled him from the pool and administered CPR. He had a pulse when he arrived at the hospital, after West Metro firefighters responded to the scene.
For younger swimmers, the outcome is frequently not as happy. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year nearly 300 children younger than five drown in swimming pools and spas and more than 3,200 children that age go to hospital emergency rooms due to submersion injuries in pools and spas.
Entrapment caused by powerful suction from a pool or spa’s drain can trap a child or adult, often resulting in death. Many of these fatalities result when a pool or spa has a broken or missing drain cover. The suctioning force of pool and hot tub drains can be so strong, it can trap body parts or hair and hold people underwater. CPSC says there have been 73 deaths and 262 entrapments since 1980, but the agency has acknowledged the incidents are underreported. Three-quarters of the deaths and injuries since 1999 were to those younger than 15.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, passed in 2007, required public pools and hot tubs to have unblockable drain covers and backup systems that shut off the suction forces if drains are obstructed. The law was named for former secretary of State James Baker’s granddaughter, who died after she was held underwater by a hot tub drain.
Proponents of the new law designed to prevent deaths and injuries from pool and hot tub drains say the CPSC watered down the measure by siding with the pool industry. Members of Congress and the parents of victims are hoping to persuade CPSC to reverse its position as public pools across the country see record throngs during the many summer heat waves.
CPSC interpreted the law in a way which eliminates the requirement for backup systems, co-sponsors of the law said in a letter to CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler last month.
Safe Kids Worldwide public-policy expert notes that drain-entrapment deaths are “particularly horrific” because parents are typically “holding the child and trying to save the child’s life” when they die.
CPSC, which kicked off a pool-safety campaign earlier this month, emphasized that pool safety is more than just safe drains: At least 70 people drowned in pools since Memorial Day; 80 more almost drowned. But none were entrapment casualties.