Government safety agency may require childproof caps on many oil-based products

Wednesday, October 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Of all the dangers that could harm her twin sons, Teresa Bryson never considered baby oil.

On May 2, her 16-month-old sons Jaiden and Jaziah were alone in a playroom in their Hanford, Calif., home when one climbed up to a shelf and tipped over a baby shower gift basket. A bottle of baby oil tumbled out.

Jaiden grabbed it and drank some. The next day, he had trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital.

He died there about a month later with oil in his lungs.

Bryson never thought that basket contained anything that could hurt her boys.

``It wasn't a cleaning product or alcohol, or a medicine,'' she wrote the government's safety agency. ``With knowledge of the danger of this product or a safety cap on the bottle, my son, Jaiden Wayne Bryson, would still be here.''

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering that very precaution and will hold a hearing Thursday on whether to require child-resistant caps on all such oily household products. The three-member commission has scheduled a vote for Oct. 24.

Four other children have died from swallowing similar products since 1993, the agency said. Two died from swallowing baby oil, one from hair moisturizer and one from automotive cleaner.

From 1997 to 1999, the agency said, about 6,400 children younger than 5 were treated in emergency rooms after swallowing these kinds of chemicals, which contain hydrocarbons and can cause a deadly form of pneumonia.

``Once it gets into the lungs, there's no medical process to rid the lungs of these oily substances,'' Ann Brown, the safety commission chairwoman, said Tuesday. She said it would cost less than 2 cents per package to make the products child-resistant.

The proposed packaging rules apply to thin, watery hydrocarbon products that flow freely and can be inhaled when swallowed. Hydrocarbon products are usually based on petroleum or mineral oils.

The products include some baby oils, sunscreens, cleaning solvents, water repellents, automotive cleaners and cosmetics such as makeup removers and bath oils.

Thicker, more syrup-like liquids are less likely to be inhaled.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, an industry group, originally disagreed with the proposed regulations but expressed support Tuesday for a government decision that would require child-resistant packaging.

Groups representing manufacturers of paints and automotive chemicals had supported the regulations but said the rules shouldn't apply to aerosol sprays containing hydrocarbons, which have been linked to no deaths. Safety agency spokesman Ken Giles said those sprays are being studied separately and may be regulated in the future.