Let us spray

Spray nozzles for cleaning fluids cause a lot of accidents to young children. How can they be made more child-resistant?

Child-resistant caps on bottles of cleaning fluids such as bleach are widely accepted as an effective means of preventing children (not to mention a high proportion of adults) from accessing their potentially harmful contents. Less effective in terms of child safety, however, are the nozzles of spray bottles. These bottles often contain equally harmful ingredients to their equivalents in conventional bottles but, rather than a genuinely child-resistant cap, they usually only have a nozzle that controls the stream configuration or closes the spray bottle. These nozzles cannot be truly said to be child-resistant, not least because the nozzles themselves a relatively easy for young children to manipulate on their own. Equally, such nozzles are only effective if the user turns the nozzle back to the 'closed' or 'off' position after each use. And, since the a pilot study has found that 75 percent of the nozzles on the cleaning product spray bottles were not left in this position, it is therefore reasonable to conclude that these bottles posed a potential hazard to young children in the household. Quite how serious this problem is can be seen in a 2010 study undertaken by US-based organisation Nationwide Children's, which revealed that spray bottles were the most common source of exposure to injury in an estimated 267,269 children of five years of age or younger treated in U.S. emergency departments for household cleaning product-related injuries between 1990 and 2006. The Challenge Clearly, then, the challenge is to come up with a spray mechanism that is both safer (ie extremely challenging for young children to operate), yet will allow adults comfortable use. At the same time, it needs to provide a safety mechanism that is not subject to human error, but instead takes effect automatically as part of general use. Of course, it is possible to introduce any number of complicated mechanisms that would prevent a child using such spray bottles. After all, anything up to and including a combination lock could be introduced, but this would be both impractical (after all, how many people forget the combination for the locks on their briefcase or suitcase?) and add hugely to the cost of what are ultimately disposable items of packaging. The solution we have in mind is a mechanism that offers much greater security, but does not impinge on the usability of the spray bottle for most adults. However, there is nothing to say that you cannot come up with something better. -Solution- Solution to the February 2013 Coffee Time Challenge The solution to the February Coffee Time Challenge of how to develop a more child-resistant nozzle for spray bottles comes from researchers at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in partnership with The Ohio State University. They have developed a prototype for child-resistant spray bottles for household cleaning products. If produced, the prototype would provide an alternative to current, more harmful child-resistant spray bottles while still meeting U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission standards for child resistance. To develop concepts and design a child-resistant spray bottle, Dr Lara McKenzie's research group partnered with Professors Carolina Gill, MS, BSID, and Scott Shim, MA, BFA, from the Department of Design at The Ohio State University and Professor Blaine Lilly, PhD, from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University. Together, they developed a distinct method for making spray bottles essentially unusable by children younger than six years of age. Most notably, the prototype features a two-stage trigger mechanism that must be sequentially engaged in order for the spray mechanism to function. The spraying mechanism then automatically returns to a locked state after each use without requiring the user to consciously apply a locking feature, setting it apart from any other existing technology. Now that the prototype has been finalised, the team plans to identify commercial partners to bring the technology to the public sector.