CPSC Issues Warning for Pools, Spas, and Hot Tubs

June 03, 1996
Release Number: 96139

The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is alerting consumers and public health officials to steps they can take to reduce entrapment deaths and injuries associated with pools, spas, and hot tubs.

The main hazard from hot tubs and spas is the same as that from pools -- drowning. Since 1980, CPSC has reports of more than 700 deaths in spas and hot tubs. About one-third of those were drownings to children under age five.

Other hazards include body part entrapment and hair entanglement.

Since 1980, CPSC knows of 18 incidents, including five deaths, involving children between the ages of two and 14 who were injured or died due to body part entrapment involving the drain of a swimming pool, wading pool, or spa. In addition, last week, a 16-year-old New Jersey girl drowned when her body was sucked down against a drain on the bottom of a spa. Her body apparently formed a vacuum seal against an outlet for circulating water and she was held underwater.

Under normal conditions, pipes leading from a pool's drain, or into the pool's pumps, draw water from the pool creating suction. If something blocks the pool drain leading into this pipe, the amount of suction will increase as the pump draws water past the obstruction. This increased suction can entrap parts of a person's body, causing the person to be held underwater. In wading pools, if a child sits on the drain outlet, the suction can cause disembowelment.

To reduce the risk of entrapment and drowning, current safety standards require that each spa have two outlets for each pump, lessening the amount of suction at any single outlet.

Since 1978, CPSC has reports of 49 incidents (including 13 deaths) in which people's hair was sucked into the suction fitting of a spa, hot tub, or whirlpool, causing the victim's head to be held under water. Hair entanglement occurs when a bather's hair becomes entangled in a drain cover as the water and hair are drawn through the drain. CPSC helped develop a voluntary standard for drain covers that reduce the risk of hair entanglement.

CPSC offers the following safety tips when using a hot tub, spa, or whirlpool:

- Always use a locked safety cover when the spa is not in use and keep young children away from spas or hot tubs unless there is constant adult supervision.

- Make sure the spa has the dual drains and drain covers required by current safety standards.

- Regularly have a professional check your spa or hot tub and make sure it is in good, safe working condition, and that drain covers are in place and not cracked or missing. Check the drain covers yourself throughout the year.

- Know where the cut-off switch for your pump is so you can turn it off in an emergency.

- Be aware that consuming alcohol while using a spa could lead to drowning.

- Keep the temperature of the water in the spa at 104 degrees Fahrenheit or below.