WASHINGTON - Nearly six years after Chicago health officials raised an alarm about children drowning in 5-gallon HDPE industrial buckets, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has given up trying to redesign them. The commission voted Feb. 8 to terminate rule-making proceedings on the buckets. It had begun the proceedings in May.
CPSC Chairwoman Ann Brown noted that 36 toddlers a year die from falling into the buckets, but said she is pleased that the five major bucket manufacturers ``agreed to work cooperatively with CPSC, and that we were able to avoid a mandatory standard, which is always the court of last resort.''
``The federal government cannot mandate changes in products as a substitute for responsible adult supervision,'' Brown said.
The issue of bucket design as a possible contributing factor tochild drowning accidents remains very much alive. An ASTM task force on redesigning the buckets is to meet March 29 in Washington, said Robert Bourg, president of injection molder Bennett Industries Inc. of Peotone, Ill.
Bourg said that even though CPSC has ended its rule-making effort, the bucket-making industry will spend at least $250,000 through mid-1998 to place English and Spanish labels on the 5-gallon containers warning of possible drowning should a toddler fall into a bucket containing liquid.
CPSC had sought some modification after Chicago public health officials in 1989 alleged to have found a pattern of drowning deaths in the plastic buckets.
The buckets generally are sold for institutional, construction or industrial use. Bourg noted fewer than 1 percent of an estimated 150 million of such buckets made annually are sold to the general public, although 80 percent bear the printed warnings.
The five major bucket manufacturers are Bennet Industries of Peotone; Ropak Corp. of Fullerton, Calif.; North American Packaging Corp. of Edison, N.J.; Plastican Inc. of Leominster, Mass.; and Letica Corp. of Rochester, Mich.