Children's recognition of dangerous household products: Child development and poisoning risk

Academic Article


  • Objective: Preliterate children may be poisoned because they fail to distinguish safe versus hazardous household products. Methods: Study 1: A total of 228 children aged 18-54 months completed four tasks assessing ability to recognize product safety. Study 2: A total of 68 children aged 17-31 months chose products to drink from pairs of dangerous versus beverage bottles. Study 3: A total of 119 children aged 18-42 months sorted 12 objects into toys, things you can drink, and things that are bad/ dangerous. Results: Left alone, children frequently touched dangerous household products. Children frequently misidentified poisonous products as safe. Some developmental trends emerged. The following packaging features apparently helped children recognize danger: black bottle color; opaque packaging; salient symbols like insects; lack of pointy spouts; squared, not round, bottles; and metal, not plastic, containers. Conclusions: Developing cognition helps preliterate children distinguish safe from dangerous household products. Multiple aspects of product packaging may reduce child poisoning risk if implemented by industry or policy.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Schwebel DC; Wells H; Johnston A
  • Start Page

  • 238
  • End Page

  • 250
  • Volume

  • 40
  • Issue

  • 2