Six-year old Abigail Taylor died last week from injuries she sustained in June 2007 when she sat on a wading pool drain at the Minneapolis Golf Club. The powerful suction caused a tear in her rectum and she was disemboweled. They later found Abigail’s intestine in the pool’s filter. Abigail’s family and attorney maintain she was seriously wounded because the cover of the drain had been removed.
From 1985 to 2004, at least 33 children ages 14 and under died as a result of pool and spa entrapment, and nearly 100 children were seriously injured. But according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Safe Kids Worldwide, the number of entrapment deaths could be much higher than reported. Because entrapment is generally a little-known risk for drowning, it is possible that many drowning deaths have not been classified as entrapment.
The suction from a pool drain can be so powerful that it can hold an adult under water, but most entrapment incidents involve children. CPSC recommends a professional inspection of your pool or spa for entrapment hazards. This inspection should check that appropriate drain covers are in place, and that missing or broken drain covers are replaced, as they are a major cause of entrapment incidents. Pool and spa owners are advised to install a Safety Vacuum Release System or SVRS, which detects when a drain is blocked and automatically shuts off the pool pump or interrupts the water circulation to prevent an entrapment. The CPSC publications “Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer” and “Swimming Pool Safety Alert” contain more information.
Abigail’s parents, Scott and Katey Taylor, lobbied for tougher regulations to help prevent injuries like Abigail’s and on December 19, 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, became a law. This act is named after the daughter of Nancy Baker and the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker who died in a tragically in June 2002 after the suction from a spa drain trapped her under the water.
The focus of this new is making pools and spas safer, securing the area around the pool or spa, and educating consumers and industry on pool safety in order to reduce the 260 yearly pool and spa drownings involving children younger than 5 and suction entrapment deaths and injuries. By December 19, 2008, swimming pool and spa drain covers sold in the U.S. are required to meet specific requirements. Public swimming pools, wading pools, spas and hot tubs must meet requirements for installation of compliant drain covers and in certain circumstances, mandatory installation of additional devices or systems designed to prevent suction entrapment.
This problem has been ongoing since 1985 and it wasn’t until 2008 that a law was enacted to protect our children. This seems to be another perfect example of how Corporate America won’t voluntarily make changes to ensure the safety of the public until it hurts them in the pocketbook or they are forced to comply by law. Either way, it’s too late for the families of Abigail Taylor and Virginia Graeme Baker.