Children and Household Chemicals

Cleaning supplies

On 11 April 2013 the Ministry of Employment, Integration and Social Affairs of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia hosted the conference "Children and household chemicals - More safety through better packaging regulations" in Brussels.

The Ministry invited experts to its representation in Brussels to discuss strategies to promote child safe packaging in Europe. Martina Abel, Managing Director of Safe Kids Germany, represented the European Child Safety Alliance at this expert meeting and served as a speaker at the panel discussion, which was a seminal part of the conference.

The conference highlighted specific poisoning hazards for children, the benefits of child safe packaging, challenges to market surveillance and the enforcement of existing regulations and standards, as well as progress and potential barriers to implementation of child safe packaging regulations.

50 attendees from market surveillance agencies, consumer protection organisations, product industry, NGOs, health, environment and safety institutions, EU Commission and media shared expert insight and interesting field reports. The event also featured very informative hands-on demonstrations of current and emerging packaging and closures, including how they are tested by market inspectors. Priorities identified to focus on included closing gaps in surveillance, enhanced enforcement, more intervention opportunities and a deeper co-operation between authorities and the product industry.

The lively panel discussion addressed topics such as consumer knowledge about danger labels and childproof packages, if a "product list" of hazardous product groups should be created, how the work of the market surveillance could be optimized (e.g. by pre-tests) and possible effective amendments to the CLP-regulation. The discussion was considered a first step on the way to new multi-sectoral strategies to enforce poisoning prevention and to make children in Europe safer. Enhanced co-operation not only regarding improved packaging but also enhanced market control and consumer awareness campaigns were encouraged.

Martina Abel spoke to the great variation between European countries with respect to poisoning rates. Learning from the best performing countries, she shared the example of the Netherlands as a model of good practice: through such strategies as enforced legislation on poisoning prevention (including household chemicals and pharmaceuticals), and effective regular consumer awareness campaigns, the Netherlands maintain low child poisoning rates.

Children have to be protected from poisoning hazards through a combination of good regulations and effective awareness programmes. Parents must be able to differentiate through clear symbols, labels and packaging between extremely dangerous and less dangerous products, as well as safe and unsafe packages when selecting products. Furthermore parents should be made aware that child safe packaging does not mean 100% safety. Age appropriate supervision and safe storage are still essential preventative measures.

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