On December 19, 2007, President Bush and Congress passed the
“Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act” to promote the
safety of children around swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas,
specifically addressing suction entrapment prevention and
increased residential barriers.
The Safe Kids Worldwide Web site identifies drowning as the
“second leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1
to 14,” 1 and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
lists drowning as 1 of the top 5 leading causes of unintentional
deaths in the United States from ages 0 to 14.2
From January 1990 to
August of 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
reported 74 known cases of body entrapment, including 13 deaths
due to drowning after being held under water by powerful suction
Many of these drowning deaths could have been prevented through
increased regulations and an increased awareness.
The newly passed “Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa
Safety Act” will reduce the number of unintentional drownings
among young children in public and residential pools by focusing
on preventing suction entrapment and increasing barriers.
What is suction entrapment?
As identified by the CPSC, suction entrapment can occur in one
of the following ways: 2
entrapment – caused by hair flowing or being tangled in a drain
cover or outlet
entrapment – caused by a finger, toe, or hand being caught in a
drain cover or outlet
Entrapment – caused by massive suction forces applied to a large
portion of the body or limbs
Entrapment – caused by either jewelry or accessories caught in a
drain cover or outlet
Evisceration / Disembowelment – caused by intense suction forces
applied directly to the intestines, usually by sitting on a
Suction entrapment does not specifically cause death.
However, when adults and young children tangled in a
drain cover underwater or are caught in suction forces, a
rescuer must be able to lift the equivalent of 500 pounds to
detach the victim from the suction force.
Unfortunately, most people are unable to overcome the
massive suction forces and the consequences can be deadly to the
victim, resulting in drowning.
Will the new law affect us?
If you are a manufacturer: YES!
Effective one year after the date of the enactment of
this law, each “spa drain cover manufactured, distributed, or
entered into commerce in the United States shall conform to the
entrapment protection standards of the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8
performance standard, or any successor standard regulating such
swimming pool or drain cover.”4
Any suction outlets in
the United States will now be required to be tested and approved
by a nationally recognized testing laboratory before sale and
If you are an aquatic designer or currently working with an
aquatic designer: YES!
Any main drains or suction outlets constructed on-site,
known under this law as a field fabricated outlet, must be
“equipped with anti-entrapment devices or systems that comply
with the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 performance standard.”4
Also, under the ASME/ANSI standard, the field fabricated
outlets must conform to specific flow rates and must “fully
address the considerations of cover / grate loadings,
durability, hair, finger and limb entrapment issues, cover /
grate secondary layer protection, [and] related sump design.”5
In other words, aquatic designers must now design any and
all on-site constructed main drains and suction outlets in
accordance with the ASME/ANSI flow rates and other specified
If you are an owner or operator of a public swimming pool, hot
tub, or spa: YES! In
one year, your facility will be required to have anti-entrapment
measures incorporated in your facility to prevent suction
To public pools across the country, this means that you will
have to have an approved method of preventing suction
identified under the law, “each public pool and spa with a
single main drain. . .other than an unblockable drain shall be
equipped at a minimum with 1 or more of the following devices:
safety vacuum release, suction-limiting vent, gravity drainage,
automatic pump shut-off, drain disablement or other systems
determined to be equally effective at preventing injury
associated with pool drainage systems.” 4
States will also be affected by the “State Swimming Pool Safety
Program” established within this law.
If states are able to meet the minimum statute
requirements, they may be eligible for grant money to hire and
train enforcement personnel and to educate the public regarding
drowning and entrapment prevention measures.
Those states meeting the
minimum requirements set forth by the law must have statutes
requiring barriers on residential pools and spas, and requiring
anti-entrapment measures on public and residential pools.
1 Safe Kids USA,
Campaign 2007 Web site
2 Centers for Disease Control (CDC),
Leading Causes of Injury Death: Highlight Unintentional Injury”
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC),
Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer
4 Library of Congress, “Virginia Graeme Baker Pool
and Spa Safety Act”
ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 – 2007 Suction Fittings for Use in Swimming
Pools, Wading Pools, Spas, and Hot Tubs (available for purchase
This article was brought to you by Water's Edge Aquatic
Design. For more information, please visit the above
source links or contact Heather Jensen,