The Pool Safety Hazard You Don’t Know About

by Sasha Emmons

The Pool Safety Hazard You Don’t Know About

The surprising and serious water safety risk most parents don't even know to watch out for: faulty pool drains that can trap or injure your child

In June 2007, 6-year-old Abbey Taylor was swimming with her family at her local pool. But when her parents called out that it was time to go, they saw that she didn’t look quite right. Abbey stood up unsteadily from the kiddie pool, took a few steps sideways, and fell into the adult pool. There was no blood, but Abbey complained that her stomach hurt. It was hours later, after surgery for what doctors thought was a rectal tear, that her parents got the devastating news: Abbey had been disemboweled, her small intestine ripped from her body, by the suction from an uncovered pool drain. Although she fought for nine months through 16 surgeries, including a liver, small bowel and pancreas transplant, Abbey passed away on March 20, 2008.

Pool drain entrapments can occur when a swimmer’s body or clothing become entangled in a faulty drain or grate, causing drowning or serious injuries. Pool drain accidents don’t happen often, but they do happen. Sadly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says an 8-year-old girl has already been injured this summer. And a similar incident, which claimed the life of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker (granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III), inspired passage of the Pool & Spa Safety Act, whichrequires anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices at public pools and spas.

How can you make sure something like this never happens to your child? The CPSC recommends these precautions:

  • If you own a home pool, make sure federally-compliant drain covers are installed properly. Also, check to see if yours was one of the 1 million recalled this spring. Inspect your drain cover regularly to make sure it’s not broken or missing.
  • If you frequent a neighborhood pool or spa, advocate for regular checks by a qualified pool and spa safety inspector. You can remind pool managers that properly maintained drain covers are the law.
  • If you’re swimming in a pool and don’t know if it has been inspected, it’s safest to keep kids away from drains, pipes, and other openings.

For more information on drain cover hazards and pool safety, check out the CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign and Abbey’s Hope, the charitable foundation started in Abbey Taylor’s name.