Child Safe Packaging Group

Packaging - Its impact on the Plastics Ind.

Date of page: Mon 05 Jul 2004 at 3:57pm

The Packaging Sector is an extremely important customer to the plastics industry and, according to the British Plastics Federation is the largest user of plastics, more than 37% of UK polymers ending up in packaging in one shape or another.

One type of packaging that has been particularly successful in the UK over the last thirty years has been child resistant (CR) packs. These are created by a child resistant closure (CRC) and bottle and child resistance is achieved by requiring two simultaneous actions for example - push down & turn or squeeze & turn.

Originating in 1971 in the US, the child resistant closure was designed primarily for medicines and was adopted for that purpose in the UK in 1974, since when it has gone from strength to strength. According to the British Standards Institute (BSI) here in the UK and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) in the United States, child resistant closures have ‘saved numerous lives.’

To be child resistant a closure needs to be type tested by panels of children aged 42 to 51 months and after two five minute test periods, one before and one after a demonstration, 80% must fail to open the pack for it to be child resistant. Child resistant packs also need to be tested by adults, indeed they are the only form of packaging that is mandatorily or routinely subjected to such a test and, according to the latest standard – ISO 8317 2nd Edition 2003, ‘…after familiarisation 90% of a sample of 100 adults aged 50 to 70 must be able to open and reclose the pack within one minute.’

For many years medicines were packed in non-child resistant blister packs, but after substantial lobbying by the Child-Safe Packaging Group (CSPG), which consists of the greater part of the child resistant packaging industry in the UK, blister packs were brought into line as child resistant in accordance with BS 8404 and the updated Medicines (Child Safety) Regulations 2003.

Major players in the UK child resistant packaging industry are closure manufacturers United Closures & Plastics of Norwich, Dragon Plastics of Pontypridd and RPC; all members of the Child-Safe Packaging Group. All are innovators in reconciling the needs of old people, who have to gain access to their medicines, with protecting children from ingesting possibly life threatening products.

The packaging industry generally takes its fair share of criticism, not just from the legislators but from environmental groups, researchers and the popular press. However, when it comes dishing out real side snipes, often in a good cause it has to be said, the child resistant industry heads the queue of recipients.

Recently the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) in laudably trying to alert parents to their duty to keep medicines out of the reach of children, said ‘…up to one in five children can open a child resistant closure.’ – Real tabloid fodder!

This was based upon the pass rate (80% unable to open) of child resistant packs. But that statistic represents a worst case scenario and the CAPT was wrong to suggest that all or even the majority of child resistant packs were openable by children.

Similarly, some days ago a tabloid newspaper conducted its own tests with a three year old, a four year old and a five year old. The results were actually quite favourable to CRC’s. The three year old couldn’t open any CR packs and that child, a little girl, came from the age group in maximum danger. The Four year old managed to open two out of six but he was either out of the sample range or certainly at the top end of it and the five year old, definitely out of the sample range, opened 50% of the six packs that she was asked to test.

Based on the definition of child resistant packs ‘difficult for a child to open in a reasonable period but easy for adults to use properly’ the product did not deserve the tabloid headline ‘Child Proof – You Must Be Kidding!’

Flexible packs, namely blister and strip for medicines have been brought into line and new products in blister packs must now be child resistant although existing ones have until October 2005 to comply.

A proven method of making blisters child resistant is the peel back & push system where instead of merely pushing a tablet through a foil it is necessary to peel back a membrane first. A number of manufacturers have toyed with ideas for revolutionary methods of making blister packs child resistant because the existing peel back & push is sometimes criticised for lack of senior friendliness.

This is a real challenge to designers. In setting the standard BS 8404 the number of units to be extracted from a blister pack before it was considered to have failed (currently eight) did come in for a lot of debate. Whatever the definition of an opening is ultimately established, eight, less than eight or a variable figure depending on the toxicity of the product, one thing is sure reclosable CR systems do allow the user to gain access to the whole contents and another challenge to designers is to create a reclosable child resistant container that allows access to only one unit at a time.

It is only by continually addressing these challenges that the child resistant packaging sector of the industry can continue the success it has enjoyed over the last thirty years.

Designers out there take note.

Copyright CSPG 1999

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