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Safety of hot tub and pool drain covers questioned

Drain covers used for pools and hot tubs across the country have been installed despite the products’ flawed safety evaluations. The drain covers are supposed to protect children and adults from getting sucked underwater by hundreds of pounds of suction force. The Consumer Protection Product Safety Commission has received complaints about the covers for years but has only recently started to investigate the predicament. The problem presents a possibly immense and not completely accounted products liability issue.

According to an investigation conducted by the Chicago Tribune, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating whether independent labs that tested the drain covers used testing procedures that allowed the covers to be sold illegally. A reported investigation showed that the testing procedures did not properly reflect the suction forces in real pools or hot tubs.

Pools and hot tubs have filtration systems that use pumps that create hundreds of pounds of force. The filtration systems keep pools and hot tubs sanitary. When a drain cover is missing, broken or not installed properly, the pump acts like a powerful vacuum that can trap and drown swimmers. Adult swimmers have been killed by the force of the vacuum when rescuers were not able to release the swimmer from the pump.

One company’s drain cover failed the testing process the Tribune investigated. The company makes a lot of drain covers on the market and did not issue a recall or provide public warning. The company notified its distributors, told them to stop selling the model and to return all unsold models. Twenty thousand of the failed drain covers were sold. A replacement costs $20.

The company said it did not inform customers because the company has to work with the Consumer Protection Product Safety Commission to issue a recall. The company also said it did not want customers to replace the cover because improper replacement can cause entrapment. The company says a pool professional should conduct the replacement installation.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “The danger that lurks underwater,” Patricia Callahan, 2/7/11

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