The Dangers of Pool and Spa Drains

With summer rapidly approaching and many parts of the country already using their backyard pools and spas, it is important to remind everyone of the dangers associated with these sources of amusement. The risk of drowning is particularly important to remember, and everyone knows the dangers of diving boards. What many people do not realize are the dangers of pool drains. Pool and spa drains injure people in three main ways: body entrapment, hair entrapment, and evisceration.

Body Entrapment

Between January of 1990 and August of 2004, there were 74 case of body entrapment. These 74 cases resulted in 13 confirmed deaths. The deaths were a result of drowning after the body or a limb was caught against the drain by the suction of the circulation pump. This hazard exists in both residential and public settings.

More than half of the 74 cases of body entrapment occurred in spas, hot tubs, or whirlpools. 31 incidents occurred in swimming pools, and 3 took place in a wading pool. The incidents affected people from the age of 22 months to 89 years. The majority of victims were children between the ages of 8 and 16 years. The median age was 9.

These hazards frequently were caused by a child playing with an open drain. Generally, the child was inserting a hand or foot into the drain which resulted in the limb getting caught by the suction. Once it was caught, the limb swelled which made it nearly impossible for the victim to escape.

The hazard of body entrapment becomes a possibility whenever there's a drain that can become completely covered by a person. If a drain is present, it needs to have a pump that allows for suction even when the drain is covered for the risk to become great.

Hair Entrapment

While not quite as common as body entrapment, there were still 43 cases of hair entrapment or entanglement in spas, pools, and hot tubs between January of 1990 and August of 2004. There were 12 deaths from hair entrapment or entanglement cases.

When the victim drowned, the victim was usually female with long, fine hair. The victim was always swimming underwater with his or her head near a suction outlet or drain. The water flowing into the drain sweeps the hair into and around the drain cover where it then gets caught or entangled in the drain. The victims were between the ages of 4 and 42. Once again, the median age was 9.

Evisceration or Disembowelment

Between January of 1990 and August of 2004, there were 2 confirmed cases of evisceration or disembowelment. There were no known deaths as a result of this problem.

The injuries caused by evisceration or disembowelment by a pool drain are irreversible and have a devastating effect on the victim's future health and development. The two reported incidents involved young children sitting on a drain cover. They were then "sucked into" drain pumps with missing covers.

Rectal lacerations as well as partial or nearly complete eviscerations are possible when this happen. An evisceration is a removal of the internal organs.

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