Government Investigation Raises Concerns About Pool and Spa Drain Cover Testing and Entrapment Risks

The CPSC is working to ensure that the public is not endangered by unsafe drain covers in pools and spas.
March 18, 2011
Release Number: 11-177

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is conducting an investigation into the safety of pool and spa drain covers and the adequacy of testing procedures used to determine the flow rating of these covers. The investigation has revealed that the testing protocols used by some laboratories may have been improper and, as a result, some covers certified by these laboratories may not comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SSAct). Pool and spa drains that use covers certified with inaccurate flow ratings may fail to prevent the hidden hazard of a drain entrapment.

As part of its investigation, the Commission approved the issuance of subpoenas to three of the laboratories that tested pool and spa drain covers seeking information related to their protocols, the types of covers tested, and results of their testing. CPSC received more than 17,000 pages of documents from these laboratories in response to the subpoenas, which agency staff continues to analyze.

The CPSC is working to ensure that the public is not endangered by unsafe drain covers in pools and spas. As a result, CPSC staff plans to conduct a public meeting on April 5, 2011, to solicit answers from testing laboratories, drain cover manufacturers and other industry representatives regarding how the testing was conducted, the potential impact on consumer safety, and what changes are being made to the testing procedures. CPSC is undertaking this effort in order to identify covers that have improper ratings and provide important safety information about drain covers to the public by Memorial Day weekend.

Gravity drainage systems and large, unblockable drain covers are not part of this investigation.

CPSC urges pool and spa owners to contact their service providers and product manufacturers for additional information on the testing and certification of drain covers. Heightened caution should always be exercised by pool operators, parents and caregivers in keeping children away from pool and spa drains and other openings. The risk to swimmers from a non-compliant drain cover is greatest in shallow kiddie pools, wading pools, or pools or spas with single main drain systems.

The P&SSAct was passed by Congress in December 2007 and went into effect in December 2008. Since then all public pools and spas have been required to install new anti-entrapment drain covers and other secondary devices or systems, on single blockable drain systems, in order to be compliant with the law. Residential pools may have made these changes as recommended by their pool service operator and any newly constructed pools or spas since early 2009 should also have these new covers.

Visit Pool Safely to learn about CPSC's pool safety campaign and for additional proven water safety steps and other life-saving information.