I can bet most of us have probably cursed and moaned while struggling to open a container with a “child-resistant” cap. Have you ever wondered how these enclosures came to be and if they’re really beneficial in preventing child poisonings? Since March is Illinois Poison Prevention Month, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to educate you on the history and benefit of child resistant closures.
The Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) of 1970 was designed to protect children under 5 years of age from accidental exposures via eating, drinking, or handling poisonous contents. Products affected by this act include, but are not limited to cosmetics, household cleaners, alcohol containing products (eg. mouthwash), medications, and certain iron-containing supplements.
In order for a product or container to be considered “child-resistant”, 85 percent of children under the age of five must fail to open the container, during product testing. This test involves giving the child a child-resistant package and allowing them 5 minutes to open the package. If the child is unable to open the package, he or she is given instructions on how to open the package. After child-resistant testing is complete, then the adults are tested. More than 90% of adults must be able to open the child-resistant package for the product to be “approved.”
*Please note, Tony – who has been working at the poison center for over 30 years – is 56 years old and still uses his teeth to open child-resistant packages!
Is the hassle and aggravation of child-resistant caps worth it you ask? Are our children any safer than before? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (UCPSC), there has been a significant decrease in the number of deaths related to poison exposure in children under the age of five since 1972. In 1972, there were a total of 216 pediatric deaths caused by poison exposure in the U.S. Yet, by 2009 there was a dramatic decrease, (approximately 90%) in the number of pediatric deaths caused by poison exposure. From the statistics shown above, we conclude that yes, although frustrating to some adults, child-resistant packaging is very beneficial!
However there is still a significant need for more poison prevention and safety education in communities across America. Although there has been a decrease in the number of childhood deaths, hazardous exposures in children continue to remain high. In 2009, U.S. poison centers reported a total of 1.3 million poison exposures in children 5 years of age and under. Calls about children represent more than 50% of all calls handled by the Illinois Poison Center.
If you have a disability, elderly, or never have children in your home then you might find “child resistant” containers to be more of a nuisance than a benefit. While we don’t recommend you bypass using child-resistant packaging for any reason, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act however allows manufacturers to offer one size of a particular product without child-resistant safety packaging. Thus, the next time you are having a prescription filled, you or your physician may request non child-resistant caps at your pharmacy.
In conclusion, even though child-resistant packaging can be a pain in the neck, we believe in its value. While it may take a couple minutes longer to open a package, you could be preventing a future accidental poisoning of a child. In the meantime, be patient, and please protect children from a trip to the emergency room.
If you have any questions about the poison prevention packing act or child resistant packages, please call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222. Or if you would like to learn more about keeping your family safe from accidental poisonings please take our FREE online poison prevention education training course. Click here for more information.
Authors: Nikki Cool, Kim Kauzlarich and Tony Burda