Recall may force closure of some public pools

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Updated 7:00 p.m. ET

Thousands of public and private swimming pools could potentially be closed this holiday weekend because of a government recall.

While it is unclear how many pools will be affected, eight different companies that are involved in the manufacture of pool drain covers voluntarily recalled over 1 million units of their product recently. The Consumer Product Safety Commission stated in a press release (PDF) that "the recalled drain covers were incorrectly rated to handle the flow of water through the cover, which could pose a possible entrapment hazard to swimmers and bathers."

The eight manufacturers recalling their product are: A&A Manufacturing, of Phoenix, Ariz.; AquaStar Pool Products Inc., of San Diego, Calif.; Color Match Pool Fittings, of Surprise, Ariz.; Custom Molded Products, of Tyrone, Ga.; Hayward Pool Products, of Elizabeth, N.J.; Pentair Water Pool and Spa, of Sanford, N.C.; Rising Dragon USA, of E. Sweetwater, Tenn.; and Waterway Plastics, of Oxnard, Calif.

As a remedy, CPSC recommends that "Pool owners/operators and consumers who have one of the recalled pool or spa drain covers should immediately contact the manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit, depending on their make and model. Except for kiddie pools, wading pools and in-ground spas, retrofit or replacement of installed covers are not required in pools with multiple drain systems or gravity drainage systems or for covers installed before December 19, 2008."

According to another CPSC press release, on average 383 pool- and spa-related drownings of children younger than 15 occurred each year between 2006 to 2008. About three-quarters of the reported fatalities involved children younger than five.

Pool or spa submersion: 2011 CPSC report (pdf)
Pool safely: Simple steps save lives (CPSC)

It's what killed Virginia Graeme Baker. In 2002, the little girl drowned after getting stuck to a drain in a hot tub. The force was so strong two grown men couldn't pull her free.

Now, new safety standards have been put in place to keep swimmers, especially children, safe, by requiring all public pools and spas with single, blockable drain systems to install new anti-entrapment drain covers and other secondary devices or systems. The new, compliant drain covers - with a dome or pyramidal shape to it - make it much harder for a swimmer to become trapped.

All public pools and spas are now required to have anti-entrapment drain covers.

The CPSC said this week there were no reported entrapment fatalities for 2010, and only three reports of entrapment injury incidents last year.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained a dated estimate of the number of pools which were required by law to switch their drain covers but have not done so.