Child-resistant packaging should save lives

Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2001

A new safety standard will help prevent injuries and death to children under 5 years of age. Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously to require child-resistant packaging for some common household products and cosmetics containing hydrocarbons that have the potential to poison children. The new poison prevention packaging for affected products must be in use within one year.

Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed between 1997 and 1999 there were an estimated 6,400 emergency room visits involving children under age 5 who ingested household chemical products that frequently contain hydrocarbons that can pose an aspiration hazard.

When a child aspirates a large amount of one of these substances into the lungs, they can cause a pneumonia-like condition, irreversible and permanent lung damage, disability and even death. According to the CPSC, "Medical science has found no method yet for safely removing these oily substances from the lungs. It is estimated that it would only cost half a penny to 2 cents per package to make these products child-resistant."

Named the "Jaiden Bryson Hydrocarbon Rule," CPSC Chair Ann Brown dedicated this rule in honor of Jaiden Bryson, a 16-month-old child who died this past May.

On May 2, the five Bryson children played while their father prepared dinner. The father heard Jaiden cry out and when he ran to the living room, he found Jaiden with baby oil all over his face and clothes. Evidently, one of the children had climbed on a shelf and tipped a basket of products off.

Jaiden drank the baby oil. He was rushed to a hospital and put on a ventilator where he remained until he died May 30. The cause of death was listed as aspiration of baby oil.

"Placing hydrocarbons in child-resistant packaging will help to reduce the number of accidental ingestions, especially substances that people have little reason to suspect of being hazardous, such as baby oil," said Mary Sheila Gall of the CPSC.

Brown agreed.

"We know that child-resistant packaging saves lives but since the packaging is child-resistant, not child-proof, parents also need to keep baby oil and other potentially poisonous substances locked up out of reach of children," she said.

The hydrocarbon-containing products include some cosmetics, automotive chemicals, cleaning solvents and water repellents. Examples of these products covered by the new poison prevention packaging:

n Cosmetics: certain baby oils, sunscreens, hair oils, makeup removers, body oils, bath oils and nail enamel dryers

Automotive chemicals: some gasoline additives, fuel injector cleaners, carburetor cleaners and tire dressings

Cleaning solvents: adhesive removers, spot removers, wood oil cleaners, floor cleaners, metal cleaners, general-use household oil and gun cleaning solvents containing kerosene

Water repellents: some containing mineral spirits used for decks, sports equipment and shoes

If you have any of these products in your home, be sure to keep them locked up and out of reach of children.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.

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