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WASHINGTON — About one-third of 5-gallon plastic buckets are not sold with labels warning consumers about the dangers of children drowning in the containers, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission study.

Alan Schoem, executive assistant in the CPSC's Office of Compliance, told a Plastic Container Shipping Institute meeting March 10 that it is premature to say if the agency would recall buckets without the label or look at mandatory labeling rules.

The commission decided in 1995 not to require the labels, after bucket makers, led by the institute, agreed to a voluntary labeling and education effort.

The CPSC plans to notify the manufacturers of unlabeled buckets, which includes four or five institute members, and is confident companies will label them once the matter is brought to their attention, according to Schoem

He would not name the companies but said that in some cases the distributor, not the manufacturer, could be at fault.

About 30 percent of the unlabeled buckets were produced in 1995 or 1996, he said. The voluntary agreement took effect in early 1995.

Because of the lag in reporting accidents, it is not clear if the voluntary effort has reduced drownings in buckets, he said. CPSC officials said about 35 children a year drown in the buckets, which do not tip over when toddlers crawl in them.

Some manufacturers had complained that other companies were not labeling the buckets because they added to the cost of the items.