Monday, March 8, 2010

Unblockable Drain Cover Vote Ensures Safer Swimming

We won a narrow victory for safety and common sense last week when a bi-partisan majority of the CPSC voted 3-2 to interpret the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act to treat pools fitted with unblockable drain covers as compliant. Commissioners Nancy Nord and Robert Adler joined me in the majority. The Commission’s professional staff reviewed the various alternatives and recommended unblockable drain covers as the best solution to the entrapment risk for several reasons. Unblockable drain covers are the only (let me repeat, only) solution that works for all five kinds of entrapment. Unblockable drain covers prevent an entrapment from occurring in the first place, whereas other back-up systems kick in only after someone gets into trouble (if then). To learn more about why I supported the decision, you can read my statement here.

Some pool safety advocates have criticized the agency’s decision, claiming that the vote puts swimmers at great risk. In truth, of the roughly 3,400 annual drowning deaths in the U.S., an average of less than one per year occurs as a result of a drain entrapment in a public pool or spa. Because we do not have good data on how many people are exposed to blockable drains each year, we cannot ascertain a true risk level. However, unblockable drain covers offer not only the safest but also a cost-effective solution to the drain entrapment problem. I believe they will save more lives and prevent more injuries than the other alternatives.

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