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Guest Column - October 2008

Pools/Aquatics: Avoiding Entrapment

The Impact of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act

By Dennis Berkshire


In December 2007 the United States Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. This act was the result of the efforts of Nancy Baker, whose 7-year-old daughter Graeme Baker died in 2002 when a spa main drain trapped her underwater causing her to drown. After her daughter's death, Baker started a campaign to introduce legislation to protect against such future accidents or deaths. Between 1985 and 2004 there have been 33 documented cases of children dying as a result of pool or spa entrapment. The new federal law aims to prevent the sale or installation of suction devices in residential or commercial pools and spas that can contribute to underwater entrapment. This law goes into effect in December 2008 and will make it illegal to sell, distribute or install a pool or spa drain or suction device that is not certified to meet the anti-entrapment requirements of ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007, a performance-based standard for suction fittings used in swimming pools, wading pools, spas and hot tubs. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act in section 1402 states that the U.S. Congress has found the following:

  • Of injury-related deaths, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 14 in the United States.
  • In 2004, 761 children ages 14 and under died as a result of unintentional drowning.
  • Adult supervision at all aquatic venues is a critical safety factor in preventing children from drowning.
  • Research studies show that the installation and proper use of barriers or fencing, as well as additional layers of protection, could substantially reduce the number of childhood residential swimming pool drowning and near drownings.

In section 1404 of this act, Congress defines this law as a consumer product safety rule. Therefore it is assigned to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for enforcement under the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2015 et seq.). Effective one year after the enactment of the act (Dec. 20, 2008), each swimming pool or 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 spa drain covers. This law appropriates $2 million for each fiscal year 2009 and 2010 for the CPSC to establish state grants for the enactment or amendment of state laws to comply with this act. In addition Congress also appropriated $5 million for each fiscal year 2008 through 2012 for the CPSC to establish and carry out an education program to inform the public of methods to prevent drowning and entrapment in swimming pools and spas.

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