The U.S. government’s top regulatory agency is ramping up its investigation into swimming pool and spa drain covers.
Earlier this month the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued subpoenas to
three independent laboratories to learn more about their testing
The CPSC, which is analyzing more than 17,000 pages of new
documentation from the labs, plans to hold a public meeting in
April to collect additional information.
“The investigation has revealed that the testing protocols
used by some laboratories may have been improper and, as a result,
some covers certified by these laboratories may not comply with the
Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety
Act,” the agency said in a press release. “Pool and
spa drains that use covers certified with inaccurate flow ratings
may fail to prevent the hidden hazard of a drain
The VGB Act requires that all drain covers be tested and approved
by a third-party laboratory. These labs include the International
Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), NSF
International and Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
The labs must follow protocol outlined in the standard ASME/ANSI
A112.19.8-2007 to determine, among other things, the maximum flow a
drain cover can accommodate before potentially causing a suction
The chain of events prompting the current CPSC investigation began
last year, when NSF International filed a complaint against IAPMO
claiming some of the products did not perform as advertised. NSF
alleged that it had tested some of the covers approved by IAPMO and
found that they failed.
The complaint was made to the American National Standards Institute
(ANSI), which accredits the drain-cover standard and the
laboratories that test products for compliance.
ANSI oversaw subsequent retesting of these products, and results
from a version of these tests were made public last summer by ABC
News, which reported that certain covers had been rated for higher
than appropriate flows.
IAPMO and the drain-cover manufacturers stood by the products and
said the wrong test results were leaked to the network.
A Chicago Tribune article followed in February of this
year, after which Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin requested a
meeting with CPSC and called for further investigation.
At its April 5 meeting, the CPSC plans to question the
laboratories, drain cover manufacturers and other industry
representatives about the labs’ testing procedures (including
any changes that will be made) and the potential impact on consumer
CPSC could not supply more information on precisely who will
attend, but did say it expects to conclude its investigation in
time to announce findings before Memorial Day weekend.
In the meantime, the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 committee has been
working to tighten the language describing the testing protocol so
there would be little to no room for interpretation.
The meeting will be held in Bethesda, Md. at 4330 East West
Highway, in the hearing room on the fourth floor. Those unable to
attend in person may view the meeting via webcast at www.cpsc.gov/webcast.