ISO standard for child-resistant packaging will help reduce cases of poisoning

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Young children are at risk of swallowing harmful products used around the home. ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is helping to reduce the risk by an International Standard for evaluating the effectiveness of child-resistant packages.

ISO 8317:2003

ISO 8317:2003, Child-resistant packaging - Requirements and testing procedures for reclosable packages, is expected to facilitate the development of improved child-resistant packaging, and contribute to the overall safety of young children.

The new standard provides an internationally recognized test method for assessing the child-resistant characteristics of packages before they are put on the market for consumer use. It will allow manufacturers to develop child-resistant packages that offer an adequate physical barrier between a child under the age of five and a range of hazardous products, including certain medicinal products, liquid fuels and solvents, strongly acid or alkaline preparations and some garden products.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry in the United Kingdom, poisoning by solids and liquids accounted for 1 in 25 accidents to children under the age of 4 and represented nearly 28 788 poisonings nationwide in 1999 alone.

"Since the introduction of child-resistant packaging, the incidence of accidental ingestion of potentially hazardous products by children under five years old has fallen," said Mick Maghar, Secretary of the subcommittee that developed the new standard.

The standard provides a single test for users which is widely recognized throughout the world. It thus helps avoid excessive testing for different markets and acts to remove barriers to trade. It should also lead to more consumer-friendly child resistant packages and, reduce the incidence of accidental ingestion by children."

While child-resistant packages have proved effective in preventing children from opening or gaining access to hazardous contents, they have also raised concerns over the difficulty of adults in opening the package, particularly among the elderly and the physically disabled.

ISO 8317:2003, which replaces ISO 8317:1989, has been updated to include a new test method for adults between the ages of 50 and 70 - thereby providing not only a measure of the effectiveness of the package in restricting access by children, but also in permitting access to its contents by adults.

Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

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