"You know, I've had it! I am tired of pumping children's stomachs when they're taking pills that they shouldn't be having! I've got to do something about it,” said Dr. Henri Breault to his wife Monica. The paediatrician from Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada had returned home at 3am one morning, after a shift at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in nearby Windsor, Ontario.
At that time the ingestion of medication by children was an epidemic. In Canada alone there were 100,000 cases a year, leading to at least 100 child fatalities annually. In 1962 Breault established an alliance of local physicians and pharmacists, the Ontario Association for the Control of Accidental Poisoning, to investigate the problem.
Many unsuccessful closure designs followed until 1967, when Peter Hedgewick, president of ITL Industries (International Tool Limited) came up with the Palm N' Turn cap. Hedgewick was no stranger to innovation, having already invented the emergency triangle for broken-down vehicles and roadway-embedded lane reflectors. But the child safe Palm N' Turn technology was his most significant invention.
Palm N' Turn was adopted throughout the Windsor area that year, leading to a drop in the incidence of child poisonings of 91%. The cap was soon endorsed by the Ontario College of Pharmacy and went into use throughout the Canadian province. By 1974 child-resistant containers became mandatory in Ontario. Other provinces – and the US – soon followed suit.
Today the Palm N' Turn remains one of the three common forms of child resistant caps along with ‘squeeze-and-turn' and ‘line-up-the-arrows'. The innovation's contribution to public health cannot be underestimated. In 2008, a report on child injury prevention from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF said that child resistant packaging was one of “the best documented successes in preventing child poisoning in the developed world”.
Breault died in 1983, at the age of 74. But his contribution to public health was honoured in 1997, when he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Peter Hedgewick died in 2009, at the age of 93. In 2007 he was inducted into the Canadian Manufacturing Hall of Fame.