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Safety Caps Aren't 'Childproof'

Sometimes, it's tough for adults to open medicine bottles. But just how quickly would a bunch of kids be able to open them up? The Early Show ConsumerWatch correspondent Susan Koeppen wanted to find out, so she put these safety caps to the test.

She gathered a group of preschoolers, ages 3 to 4, at a day care center in New York City.

Koeppen gave them seven bottles to open. The bottles were emptied and sanitized, but mouthwash, iron pills, drain cleaner, Tylenol, aspirin, dish washer detergent and cough syrup were some the products that had been stored in these bottles.

Then, with the parents watching, Koeppen conducted the experiment and the kids were able to open three of the bottles — including the one for the iron pills. These pills are one of the most deadly and poisonous products in the group.

It took one second for 4-year-old Steven to open that bottle. He also popped the top off a red bottle, which had contained drain cleaner — a substance as lethal as arsenic.

Dr. Shari Platt, head of the pediatric emergency department at New York Presbyterian Hospital, has studied child resistant caps and she says more than a million children are accidentally poisoned every year — often by household products and medicines that came in child-resistant containers.

"Parents think the safety cap is going to give them 100 percent security," Platt says. "They don't realize how easily children can get into these medicines, but they do."

Every seven minutes, a child under the age of five goes to the emergency room because of an unintentional poisoning.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, child resistant caps only have to keep out 80 percent of kids under the age of 5.

"The law strikes a balance between keeping the youngest kids who mouth everything they get their hands on with the need for the elderly to access their pills or other medicines," says Scott Wolfson, of the CPSC.

But some of the parents in Koeppen's test group say the government standard isn't strong enough. They saw firsthand that they couldn't rely on child safety caps to keep kids safe.

"It's very much an eye opener to me," one mother says. "You realize that you have to be very prudent about keeping things away from your children. It could be life-threatening."

A recent study showed that children as young as 2 were able to open bottles with child resistant caps. So parents need to realize these caps are not child proof, just child resistant.

For poison control centers in your area call 1-800-222-1222.