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The hidden dangers of pool drains

This time of year, parents pay extra attention to pool safety. They make sure that their young kids know how to swim and stay safe in the pool. One danger that too many parents don't consider involves pool drains. Getting sucked onto and into drains and trapped underwater are genuine dangers. Since the 1980s, at least 36 deaths have been linked to suction entrapment.

What happens is that if a drain isn't properly covered, the force of the suction can literally pull someone down and trap them there. Small children are especially at risk. However, even adults have drowned because they couldn't escape that force. Even those who survive can suffer serious injuries.

While swimming pool designers and manufacturers have been able to improve drain safety, some experts say that drains aren't even necessary. They say that when pools were installed without drains or drains in existing pools are sealed; there's no negative impact on the cleanliness of the pool.

It's been a long-held belief that drains are necessary to allow water to circulate effectively -- thereby preventing contamination caused by water stagnating in various areas of the pool. However, studies have shown that contaminants aren't removed any better by the pool's circulation system when there's a drain than when there isn't one.

Property owners who have pools and spas with drains are required to comply with the 2008 Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB Act). It was named for a 7-year-old girl who died after getting trapped on the drain of a spa. The law details safety measures that must be in place with a drain, such as safety vacuum release and automatic pump shut-off systems.

If you or your children are swimming in a pool at someone's home, it's wise to inquire about their drainage safety precautions. Of course, we want to assume that properties like hotels, country clubs, public parks and multi-family complexes comply with all safety regulations. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. If you or a loved one has been injured by a faulty pool or spa drain, it's wise to find out what your legal options are.

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