Anyone who has ever taken care of a toddler for more than an hour knows danger lurks around every corner and hides in every cupboard and medicine cabinet.
Curiosity is a good thing, but it can also lead to trouble. As parents and caretakers of little ones, it is our job to balance their desire to explore with the need to keep them safe.
Before you feel completely confident about having a home that’s safe for children, there are several things you should know about child-resistant packaging.
1. Child-Proof Packaging Does Not Exist
Perhaps you’ve used the term “child proof” when talking about the safety caps found on most bottles of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Maybe you’ve even muttered a curse word under your breath because the “child-proof cap” was hard to get off.
The truth is, no package is 100% child proof. Every parent knows how resourceful kids can be, and given enough time, they’ll find a way to get what they want.
The correct term is “child resistant.” This implies special packaging is designed to provide an additional barrier that reduces the risk of children accessing possibly harmful items. But, there’s no guarantee.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has stated that “There is no such thing as child-proof packaging…”
2. Only Certain Types of Products are Regulated
From choking hazards and accidental poisonings, to allergic reactions and chemical burns, there are a number of ways children can be harmed by common household items.
Despite potential harm, it is important to keep in mind that only specific products are required to use child-resistant packaging.
Those product types include but are not limited to:
- OTC medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen
- Prescription drugs (with exceptions)
- Mouthwash containing 3g or more of ethanol
- Dietary supplements and medications containing iron
- Furniture polish
- Liquid kindling/lighter fuel
- Household substances containing 4% or more of methanol
- Household substances containing 10% or more of sulfuric acid
- Household substances containing 50mg of fluoride
- Paint solvents and glue removers
- Drugs or cosmetics containing low-viscosity hydrocarbons
Get the complete list of substances requiring special packaging from GPO.gov.
As thorough as that list may seem, there are still many things that do not fall under government regulations for special packaging yet still pose a safety risk to young children.
Thankfully, there are responsible brands out there taking preventative steps to protect little ones using safer packaging, even though they aren’t obligated to do so. You may have noticed brands like Tide® using the Child-Guard® slider on flexible pouches. Don’t be surprised if you start to see these types of child-resistant flexible pouches popping up in the lawn and garden areas of the store, too!
3. Truly Child-Resistant Packaging Must be Tested
In order for special packaging to be officially labeled as child-resistant it has to go through independent testing that follows very specific guidelines, which are outlined in the Poison Packaging Prevention Act (PPPA).
Panels of children under the age of five are assembled divided into three age categories, and placed in pairs. The children have 10 minutes to try and open the package. Halfway through the test, children are shown how to open the package, and they’re also told they can use their teeth to access the contents.
In order for a package to pass the test, a minimum of 85% of child participants must be unable to open it before seeing a demonstration, and a minimum of 80% must be unable to open the package after seeing the demonstration.
Panels of older adults are also tested to ensure the package is easy enough for seniors to open. In these tests, 90% of the participants must be able to properly open and close the package.
When Slide-Rite® tested its new Child-Guard® zipper closure for flexible packaging, there were some encouraging results. Fresh-Lock® continues to innovate and test Child-Guard® zipper closures for flexible packaging because as the leader in child resistant closures, it is our responsibility to help protect children from products with potentially harmful ingredients. Today, brands are continuing to choose Child-Guard® closures for reclosable flexible packaging. Since 2013, cases involving laundry detergent packets in children five years or younger has dropped significantly – part in thanks to the right technology and consistent consumer education.
4. Responsibility Starts with You!
The CPSC says we should think of child-resistant packaging as the last line of defense, not the primary line of defense.
The first line of defense is parents, grandparents, babysitters, and other caretakers.
Child-resistant packaging does not work if it is not closed. Plus, it is a lot harder for toddlers to get their hands on potentially dangerous products if those products are out of sight and out of reach.
It’s also wise to talk with your children and explain that certain items are off limits. Telling a toddler something is “yucky and will make them feel very sick” is something most two and three year-olds will understand.
Working together, responsible brands and careful caretakers can make the home a safer place for young children.