Hot tub drain problem has existed since 1970s
Ocala Star Banner
August 21, 1988
By Rima L. Firrone
OCALA - When seven-year-old Brooke Oglesby drowned in a hot tub Aug. 13, she became the latest victim of what is called "hair entrapment."
A consumer advocate in Washington said the problem has existed since mid 1970s. People have drowned or been severely traumatized by the experience.
The Ocala youngster and her two brothers were visiting their grandmother, Terry Bertolami of Lake Lochloosa Shores, near Hawthorne, when Brooke's hair was caught in the suction created by an outflow valve in the tub, according to Spencer Mann, an Alachua County Sheriff's Department spokesman. Not until the pump was shut off was the young girl's hair freed.
Attempts by paramedics to resuscitate the girl were Unsuccessful. She was pronounced dead at
Shands Hospital in
Gainesville at 7:30 p.m. after a helicopter flight during which paramedics repeatedly attempted to restore her life.
James Keenan, with the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, D.C., calls the incident another tragic case of "hair entrapment."
"We've been trying to eliminate this problem for 15 years," said Keenan. "There are no regulations on these things - only voluntary standards."
Keenan said many older hot tubs; spas and whirlpools have slots to suck water through the filtration system. These slots have a pulling power of 25 pounds per square inch. According to Keenan, tests done with human hair wigs mounted on dowels show that the only way to release the hair once it is caught in these drains is to cut it or pull it out of the head.
"In the mid 1970's, we were trying to get designers to make changes," Keenan said. "We worked with the plumbing people to redesign the assembly systems with relief devices so all the suction isn't in one place"
He said the problem of hair entrapment is common with children with long hair. "If they're underwater, they can't scream. They are pulled under and the hair is twisted around the drain. By the time someone realizes the problem, it's too late."
Keenan said the only voluntary groups working on spas, hot tubs and whirlpools are the American National Standards Institute and the International Association of Plumbers and Mechanical Officials.
"The new spas have little pinholes with a pulling power of 5 pounds of pressure and that should release the hair if it is caught," Keenan said. "Depending on the age of the unit, there are probably some bad ones out there."
A spokeswoman for Quality Acrylic Spas, manufacturers of the unit Brooke died in, asked not to be identified.
She said an Ocala dealer, now out of business, did purchase their spa shells but did his own installation.
"We have the drains at the bottom of the spas but they are covered by grates," she said. 'This should solve
the problem of getting hair tangle Spokesmen for World Spas I:
Pinch-A-Penny and Central Flor Pools and Spas said spas should have two suction lines, to relieve pressure. They said spas approved by Underwriters' Laboratory of Northbrc Ill., have skimmer-type drains at top of the spas as well as drains at bottom to keep anyone from be pulled underwater.
"With two suction lines, one stop pulling if anything like hair comes entangled in it. Any reputable spa will have them, but it's up to vendor to plumb the spa properly said a spokesman for Pinch-A-Penny Ocala.
States currently regulating installation of spas are Washington, Oregon and West Virginia. California is studying legislation. None has been proposed in Florida.