Keeping medicines and poisons away from children

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We're currently researching all the child-resistant packaging available in the market and thought it might be worth sharing something I thought was interesting.

There are all sorts of drugs, medications and household chemicals that are sold in child-resistant packaging or containers to reduce the risk of children ingesting dangerous items. In the UK alone, around 500 children under 5 are admitted to hospitals after swallowing a poisonous substance.

The interesting thing is that very few, if any, of these containers, are actually very effective. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated in a press release that "There is no such thing as child-proof packaging. So you shouldn't think of packaging as your primary line of defence. Rather, you should think of packaging, even child-resistant packaging, as your last line of defence.", so it's vital you keep any toxic substances out of reach of little hands.

Nidirect recommends you don't keep them:

  • next to your bed
  • in your handbag
  • in the fridge
  • on counters

With regards to household chemicals, they suggest you:

  • keep them in cupboards with child-resistant catches
  • keep them out of reach, never under the sink or next to the toilet
  • never leave them around while you're cleaning if your child could reach them
  • dispose of containers safely

The full Nidirect article has a number of other useful tips and first aid advice about what to do if anyone has consumed anything harmful. It's definitely worth a quick read if you're a parent.

How child resistant packaging is tested

Slightly more relevant to us, is the consumer guide to the standards for child resistant packaging, published by the BSI, that states the aim of the containers is to keep little fingers out of products which could harm them, but to also ensure that adults can still open and close the container easily. The World Health Organization and UNICEF state that child resistant packaging is one of the best-documented successes in preventing accidental poisoning of children. A child resistant package usually requires a special ‘trick’ to open it – something too complicated for most young children to work out. In terms of how this is tested, the standards state it should be tested with children and adults as follows:

  • A group of children aged between 42 and 51 months are asked to open a pack. If they don’t succeed after five minutes, they are shown how to open it, and then given five more minutes to try again
  • A child resistant pack should be impossible to open for at least 85 per cent of children in the first five minutes, and for at least 80 per cent following the silent demonstration
  • The pack is also tested with a panel of adults aged between 50 and 70. At least 90 per cent of this group must be able to open and reclose the pack or – for a non-reclosable pack – open it and remove one item. The test uses older adults as they are most likely to have difficulty opening and reclosing child resistant containers

Group sizes vary because a sequential testing method is used. The child test, for example, usually involves between 30 and 60 children, but testers might need to use as many as 200 children to get a clear picture of a pack’s child resistance.

As no packaging is ever fully child proof, make sure you don't leave anything near your little ones.

Have a great weekend.