CPSC to require child-resistant packaging on some household products

November 19, 2001

CPSC requires child resistant packaging for common household products containing hydrocarbons, including some baby oils

 

CPSC to require child-resistant packaging on some household products

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted 3-0 to require child-resistant packaging for an array of common household products and cosmetics containing hydrocarbons. These products include baby oils, suntan oils, spot removers, and certain cleaners that can poison children (Drug Topics, Nov. 5).

The new standard, published in the Federal Register on Oct. 25, must be in use 12 months from that date. The rule is intended to prevent injuries and deaths to children under five years of age who swallow and aspirate certain oily liquids containing hydrocarbons. When these products enter the lungs, they can cause chemical pneumonia, irreversible lung damage, disability, and even death.

If products contain 10% or more hydrocarbons by weight and have a low viscosity, they must be in child-resistant packaging.

CPSC is aware of five fatalities since 1993 of children under five involving aspiration of hydrocarbon products–three of them died from baby oil. From 1997 to 1999, the commission estimated there have been 6,400 emergency room visits involving children under five who ingested household chemical products that contain hydrocarbons that can pose an aspiration hazard. The American Association of Poison Control Centers data from 1993 to 1999 revealed 11,115 potential aspiration exposures to cosmetic and household products containing hydrocarbons.

CPSC first proposed regulating these products in 1997, but it faced opposition from the cosmetics industry. The death in May of Jaiden Bryson, a 16-month-old who aspirated a baby oil product and developed pneumonia, triggered the unanimous vote. The new regulation will be known as the Jaiden Bryson Hydrocarbon Rule.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association issued the following statement in response to the new rule: "Personal care products containing mineral oil have been used safely for decades and continue to be safe to use and safe to have in your home when stored properly. As with any household product, these products should be kept out of the reach of children. To provide extra protection for children, many manufacturers have designed their packages to ensure that the amount of oil dispensed is small. However, any preventable tragedy is one too many. CPSC has determined that child-resistant closures for certain personal care products with mineral oil are necessary to protect children. Our industry supports that finding and will move expeditiously to provide such packaging for our products."

Rick Kingston, Pharm.D., senior clinical toxicologist, Prosar International Poison Center, St. Paul, served as a consultant to several cosmetic companies and their trade associations. He told Drug Topics that even though data showed there were large numbers of potential aspiration exposures, very few of these exposures had resulted in any significant injury. Therefore, he thinks it is reasonable that there could be an exemption to the rule for cosmetics containing mineral oil.

"Unfortunately, there were isolated cases that tipped the scales and made it less likely that an exemption would pass," said Kingston. "The cases before [Bryson] were so questionable. They were not convincing to demonstrate that there was substantial risk to all children. They didn’t represent the typical type of exposure where a child has access to the product. This last case was the single case that pointed out what the potential concern might be: There are circumstances where kids do get access to things that they shouldn’t ingest," he said.

"This one case ultimately swayed all the commissioners," Kingston continued. "The circumstances of this case seemed to be clearer, and there weren’t unusual or extenuating circumstances. There appeared to be little question that the substance had a role in the event."

Kingston said that the regulation raises the question, How do you look at risk? "It is difficult to make a rule that is broad enough to catch everything, but not so broad that it catches so many things it becomes overly burdensome. All of us are out to find areas where we can reduce the likelihood of serious poisoning. There has to be a balance somewhere and that’s where the problem comes in."

While Kingston acknowledged that child-resistant closures save lives, he expressed the concern that products in this packaging might be perceived as being excessively toxic when they may or may not be toxic. "What product does it make the most sense to use it on? You want consumers to use the product. You don’t want consumers to feel the cap is a nuisance and take the cap off," he said.

Sandra Levy

 



Sandra Levy. CPSC to require child-resistant packaging on some household products.

Drug Topics

2001;22.