The Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday said it was considering changing the test procedures for child-resistant packages to make it easier for adults to open them but still tough for children.
"Many consumers find child-resistant packaging to be either too difficult or too inconvenient to use," the agency said in announcing the changes it is considering.
"When given the choice, therefore, many consumers purchase products in conventional packaging rather than child-resistant packaging. Consumers also are making a substantial number of child-resistant packages ineffective after bringing them home."
Under the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, the CPSC requires child-resistant packages for a wide range of household substances, including aspirin, furniture polish, prescription drugs, drain cleaners, vitamins with iron and lighter fluid.
"We have a law on the books now that is very effective," said Commissioner Stuart Statler. "Aspirin deaths and ingestions, for example, are down over 80 percent since the adoption of the regulation and that is an achievement . . . . But we must continually ask how we can improve the packaging to keep it child-resistant without making it difficult for the elderly."
The commission is soliciting comments on the proposal through March 21 and will hold a public hearing on it on March 10.
After analyzing the problems elderly persons have opening child-resistant packages, the CPSC has suggested that fewer children and more older adults be used to test packaging. Under the present test, 200 children are asked to open the packages and after five minutes are shown how to do it. A package passes the test if 85 percent of the children can't open the package after five minutes, and 80 percent can't after a total of 10 minutes. Under the CPSC proposal, only 50 children would be used in an initial test.
Meanwhile, adult participation--now limited to adults 18 to 45--would be expanded to include those over 45. Under the current test, a package fails if 90 percent of the adults can't open and close it within five minutes. The CPSC is considering whether the test period should be shortened to more realistically reflect the amount of time an adult would be willing to spend trying to open a package.
Peter W. Preuss, the agency's associate executive director of health sciences, said that expanding adult ages and using fewer children would have the effect of "making the package easier for adults to open but still child-resistant."