Monday, May 24, 2010

CPSIA - Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week!

Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week! The CPSC this week strode bravely forth to combat pool fatalities in the United States - finally. I have written about swimming pool deaths in the past (as early as May 26, 2009 in this blog and earlier in letters to Congress). They are shocking in number. The CPSC says that deaths in pools and spas AVERAGE 385 children per year from, 2005-1007. Of this average, 299 victims were (on average) YOUNGER THAN FIVE YEARS OLD.

The childhood pool injury count is even more breathtaking. For pools, submersion injuries requiring emergency room treatment averages 4,200 children per year (47% were for two- and three-year-olds), or 46,200 projected submersion injuries to go with the projected 4,235 childhood drowning deaths over 11 years.

Whoa. This is shameful.

In the same 11-year period, CPSC recall data notes ONE death from lead and THREE injuries from lead. You read that right:
  • Pools: 4,235 drowning deaths and 46,200 injuries
  • Lead: 1 death and 3 injuries

There are no phthalates injuries on record.

The CPSIA addressed pool safety. A highly-publicized section of the CPSIA is known as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act (the "Baker Act"). This law was implemented in response to the tragic pool drain entrapment death of the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. The CPSC cites 11 fatalities from pool drain entrapment from 1999-2008. Over 11 years, at this rate, 12 pool drain entrapment deaths would be projected. The Baker Act dictates that pools replace their drain covers to avoid this awful risk. Not an unreasonable approach to a completely avoidable source of injury, at a relatively low cost. Good idea.

It is, however, apparent that the Baker Act does not address the overall massive risk of childhood pool drownings. Of the projected 4,235 deaths in an 11-year period, the Baker Act addresses the cause of only 12 deaths. That leaves the projected deaths of 4,223 children completely unaddressed by our ever-vigilant Congress.

Remember, according to my analysis, compliance costs for the CPSIA are about $10,000 per dollar of avoided lead injury costs. Each death is valued at $6.1 million using EPA estimates. The projected unaddressed pool drownings have a "cost" of $6.1 million x 4,223 = $25.8 Billion over 11 years. At the same rate of compliance costs incurred by the lucky companies attempting to comply with the lead rules, the pool industry would have to spend $10,000 per dollar of injury cost over 11 years, or a mere $257.6 trillion. At this rate of spend, the industry would only have to spend $23.4 trillion per annum which happens to be nearly double the projected 2010 U.S. GDP of $14.8 trillion.

But who's counting?

And how did our Congress respond to the threat of childhood pool drownings? Surely they really threw the book at this terrible problem - it is literally thousands of times worse than lead. Ummm, well, they mandated a public awareness campaign (see Section 1407 of the Baker Act). The CPSC blitz is the effort to comply with this master plan: a press release, a new website and a "a first-of-its-kind national public education effort". Apparently, all you need is a few ads and press releases to solve pool deaths.

Strangely, the CPSC is straying from their newly-adopted precautionary principles in this blitz. They actually recommend a strategy of "staying close, being alert, and watching children at the pool". Huh, you've got to be kidding! That sounds a lot like individual responsibility. The CPSC even refers to the need for a "personal system of safety". Being a good parent and keeping an eye on your kids is so "Old School". I assumed that the CPSC had moved beyond such shallow advice. They would certainly never do that for lead. Of course not.

I should note that I have long considered the effort to combat pool deaths to be long overdue, so don't get me wrong. I think it's great that the CPSC is actually doing something. Pool deaths claim WAY too many kids' lives every year - we need to take a real threat like this very seriously. But please pardon my waves of nausea over the proportionality of the response. Pool deaths are expected to exceed 4,000 over 11 years (including more than 3,000 kids under five), and in response the CPSC puts up a new website and produces public service announcements with Olympic swimmers. Lead deaths are expected to be one or zero in the next 11 years - and we have to spend $5.6 billion every year in compliance costs.

This is terrible government in its purest form. It is indefensible and incomprehensible. I defy the Democrats to stand up and actually defend their policy positions or legislative solutions. They won't debate the issue because it's a total loser for them. The children's product industry is collateral damage to the Dems' reelection campaigns. Well, I won't just grin and bear it. Falling on the sword for their ridiculous sound bites and reelection posturing is not how I plan to go out.

This is un-American. Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week.


Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...

Please keep in mind - pool deaths exceed ONE PER DAY over 11 years. The CPSC has accounted for ONE death from lead in ELEVEN YEARS.

And the CPSC acts against this problem with a publicity campaign. . . .

Anonymous said...


Don't forget all of the sun induced dna damage that will lead to skin cancer later in life. If you include those numbers. The injury rate would be even higher

Anonymous said...

thats right folks pools are dangerous...that's why parents should be watching their children carefully to be sure that they are not eating their pool toys.
Under astm mfgs are specifically required to post supervision warnings...isn't that enough, or do we need to provide a lifeguard with every purchase?

anonymous coward said...

And from what I've heard, these drain drowning cases are a horrible, horrible death. Witnesses remain traumatized for years. I too am glad something was done about this, I was worried with cpsc wrapped up in cpsia, they couldn't. -And owing to the hysteria of the latter of course.

In congress, the priority is politics. Not reason. It's enough to make anyone become a libertarian.

Notechaser said...

Some time ago I read about this only being mandatory on public pools, whereas most deaths occurred in private pools. Haven't followed it to see if this is still the case.

Ben S

Maiden America said...

What a spectacular comparison! I'm sure there are enough stark comparisons that a chart of even a dozen (done like that humorous healthcare chart that went viral) would have quite the "wow factor," as well. Keep up the good work!

Tristan Benz
Maiden America

Anonymous said...

From the Product Safety Newsletter: During a meeting with members of the Pool Safety Council, Adler noted that it was his duty to implement the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act “in a reasonable, cost-effective way” and wondered if an added requirement of secondary anti-entrapment systems “justified the extra cost. How much extra safety are we getting from secondary systems?”

Well, I can promise you it's more than we're getting from CPSIA phthalate testing... Since when does Adler care about "reasonable" or "cost-effective"?