In a move sure to have long-lasting implications for the aquatics industry, President George W. Bush has signed the first-ever federal pool and spa safety legislation.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act passed as an amendment to a 3,400-page comprehensive energy bill. It mandates entrapment-proof drain covers and establishes a grant program where money is given to individual states when they pass laws addressing drowning and entrapment prevention. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will determine which minimum requirements state legislation must fulfill to qualify.

One addition came after a 6-year-old girl was entrapped by a drain and eviscerated in a Minnesota golf-club pool. The amendment states that within a year, all public pools must have a main-drain cover that complies with ASME/ANSI A112.19.8. Existing public pools without those drain covers must be retrofitted.

Public pools with single main drains (other than unblockable drains) also will need a system designed to prevent suction entrapment. These include a safety vacuum release system, suction-limiting vent system, gravity drainage system, automatic pump shut-off system, drain disablement or another system determined to be as effective.

?The passage of this legislation means that fewer children will die from drowning in swimming pools or spas,? said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who authored the House bill as well as the Florida State legislation on which the bill is based. ?Three hundred thirty-five children died in the United States in 2004, and basic pool safety legislation would have dramatically reduced those childhood fatalities.?

Johnny Johnson, president of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance in Huntington Beach, Calif., hopes the law will spur further action.

?It?s wonderful news that we finally have some federal legislation dealing with drowning prevention,? Johnson added. ?The legislation is an extremely important piece of the puzzle, but it?s only one part of the formula. We hope people realize that making barriers to pool entry as stringent as possible will make the greatest difference. The legislation represented some compromise, and I hope it will raise awareness and spur further conversation and action as we continue to raise awareness on the issue.?