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Contact: John Procter
Phone: (800) 970-8420


Consumer Product Safety Commission Reverses Federal Law, Puts Swimmers in Grave Danger
Shocking Ruling Favors Industry, Ignores Consumers and Congress

WASHINGTON, DC – March 5, 2010 – Pool and spa safety was dealt a major blow Monday when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced new guidance that not only undermines federal safety rules, but leaves swimmers at great risk.

Earlier this week, CPSC voted to interpret the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act , a rare but overwhelmingly bipartisan bill, in a way that promotes so-called “unblockable” drain covers as the only layer of protection needed.  The decision is a strange and blatant contradiction to the intent of the Pool and Spa Safety Act. The Act was named after Virginia Graeme Baker, the granddaughter of the former Secretary of State James Baker, who died tragically as a result of a spa entrapment. The law that resulted makes it abundantly clear that all public pools and spas must have layers of protection to protect swimmers from drain entrapment which occurs when part of the body becomes attached to a drain because of the powerful suction of a pool ’s filtration system, often after the drain cover breaks or comes off.

The announcement brings into question the influence representatives of the pool industry have in CPSC’s decision-making process. Pool and spa manufacturers see this as a potential opportunity to exploit pool owners while reaping tremendous financial benefit from the surge in unblockable drain cover sales as a result of this announcement. It also begs the question why the commission wanted to skirt around the statute, rather than implement it.
“Industry advocates, more interested in financial gain than swimmer safety, got exactly what they wanted. Layers of protection are absolutely necessary in order to protect swimmers from entrapment, even on so-called ‘unblockable’ drain covers,” said John Procter, a spokesman for the Pool Safety Council. “The federal Pool and Spa Safety Act was passed for that very reason. For CPSC to pretend otherwise puts swimmers in grave danger of entrapment and is a stain on the agency’s reputation. ”

The commission’s decision even went against the position of Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, who voted for more protection. “In my role as Chairman,” she said, “I am not willing to gamble the safety of our children in the hope that drain covers throughout the nation that are commonly removed for maintenance always will be reinstalled correctly or that a missing or broken drain cover will be immediately noticed by an observant pool operator who will then shut down the pool before any children are at risk.”

There is no doubt that Federal enforcement of the law will be compromised as a result and the problems are expected to trickle down to the state level. Communication from CPSC indicates that the commission will vote on the Pool and Spa Safety Act’s State Grant Program and Model State Legislation, and a similar disregard for layers of protection can be expected. If and when that happens, state level programs in support of the Pool and Spa Safety Act will be in jeopardy.

The ruling will also place a major burden on the bed and breakfast industry, as establishments with five rooms or fewer will not be required to comply with the Pool and Spa Safety Act – leaving them and their customers open to accidents and resulting lawsuits. 
PSC will continue to push the true intent of the federal law and recommend all pools and spas, public and private, install anti-entrapment devices, regardless of whether it has unblockable drain covers.

A 501(C)(4) non-profit organization, the Pool Safety Council is a Washington, DC-based swimming safety and drowning prevention advocacy group. Members of PSC include pool industry professionals, child safety advocates, and concerned parents, and PSC partners with such prominent safety groups as SafeKids USA and the Drowning Prevention Foundation. Through comprehensive published materials and PSC’s website, the Pool Safety Council works to provide parents, caregivers and pool operators with the information they need to understand the risks of drowning and know the steps they can take to protect all recreational bathers, utilizing what the Consumer Product Safety Commission calls barriers and layers of protection.

For additional information, including guidance on Pool and Spa Safety Act guidance requirements, please visit our website at:



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