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这款洗衣神器竟然能杀人,该怎么破?

Jake Meth 2019年03月01日

彩色的洗衣凝珠成了宝洁旗下的畅销品之一。问题是,太多孩子因此中毒了。

现在宝洁公司表示,由于在欧洲销售时未出现中毒事件,并未担心过凝珠上市后的安全问题。宝洁北美监管和外部技术关系负责人里克·哈克曼表示,凝珠上市时采用了与所有产品相同严格的安全检验流程。

然而,宝洁这次多了一个步骤,似乎能看出内部有点格外谨慎。在产品上市后,宝洁立刻找辛辛那提药物和毒物信息中心收集有关凝珠伤害的数据。宝洁公司回答《财富》杂志的问题时称,外部医疗顾问小组建议收集数据,因为凝珠是新产品。(宝洁还表示,在推出尺寸和形状相似的洗碗机啫喱球时也采取了类似措施。)

宝洁拒绝透露,委托收集辛辛那提数据是否反映出担心凝珠存在特殊风险。但是,丹佛健康的落基山毒物和药物中心的负责人、从事消费者安全领域30多年的专家理查德·达特认为此举不同寻常。“如果美国食品与药品监督管理局对某款处方药不放心,进入市场的一刻起就会监控。”他说。“但在消费品方面,没听说过如此密切跟踪的例子。”

与此同时,凝珠造成伤害案例激增也引发监管关注。2012年10月,疾病控制和预防中心向消费者发出警告,称“糖果状”的洗衣凝珠是“公共卫生新危害”。2013年3月,消费者产品安全委员会(CPSC)发布声明,呼吁行业自愿行动解决问题。Crowell&Moring的合伙人、委员会前总顾问谢丽尔·法尔维表示,虽然CPSC拥有广泛的监管权力,包括强制召回或单方面制定产品安全标准,但只有产品存在明显危险时才会动用。她说,如果并没有明显危害,委员更倾向于推动企业和消费者代言人主动制定标准。尽管制造商负责最终制造,但必须遵守标准。即使如此,CPSC对凝珠采取行动的呼吁也有些不寻常,法尔维表示此类情况一年最多出现一两次。

虽然其他制造商也生产洗衣凝珠,但宝洁作为市场领导者,回应方面也走在前面。多数情况下,宝洁的举动比较认真及时,也很见成效。2012年年中,宝洁已经开始在凝珠包装盒上安装双锁盖。2013年夏天,宝洁将盒子设计改为不透明,以安抚认为透明盒子像糖果罐的批评者。不过,中毒人数还在不断攀升。2015年2月,参议员迪克·德尔宾(伊利诺伊州)和众议员杰克·斯贝尔(加州)从联邦立法层面施压,要求制造商“降低包装对儿童的吸引力”,并减少使用腐蚀性成分。

议员们指出,如果行业主动采取更有力的行动,将放弃推进法案。2015年9月,由于制造商、行业游说者和消费者代言人通过了一套新安全规则,相关努力终于走出了坚实一步。标准要求凝珠包装不透明且难以打开,包装上统一添加警告标示和安全图标,凝珠还要采用不易破裂且味苦的薄膜。

到2017年,新标准已经在全行业实施。2018年6月,标准委员会再次召开会议,审查受伤人数并落实进展。他们看到的结果取决于个人立场,要么令人安心,要么是失败的安全系统发出控诉。

P&G says today that it had no unique concerns about the safety of Tide Pods at launch, given the lack of any poisoning crisis in Europe. Rick Hackman, head of North America regulatory and technical external relations at P&G, says that the company applied the same stringent safety process to the pod launch that it does to all its products.

Yet P&G took an additional step that seemed to indicate an unusual degree of caution. Immediately after the launch, the company enlisted the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center to collect data on exposures. In response to questions from Fortune, P&G says that a panel of external medical advisers recommended the data collection because the product was new to the market. (P&G also says the company took similar action when it introduced dishwasher packets, which are similar in size and shape.)

P&G declines to say whether the commissioning of the Cincinnati data collection reflected concerns that the product was uniquely risky. But Richard Dart, head of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center at Denver Health and an expert in the field of consumer safety for over 30 years, describes this as highly unusual. With “prescription drugs, if the FDA has concerns, they will require monitoring right from the minute it enters the market,” he says. “But for consumer products, especially, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of one that did this.”

In regulatory circles, meanwhile, the surge of pod injuries was dramatic enough to draw attention. In October 2012 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to consumers that laundry pods, which had a “candy-like appearance,” were “an emerging public health hazard.” In March 2013 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a statement calling on the industry to take voluntary action to address the hazard. While the CPSC has wide regulatory powers, including the ability to force a mandatory recall or unilaterally develop safety standards for a product, it uses these levers only in rare instances when a product is patently dangerous, says Cheryl Falvey, a partner at Crowell & Moring and former general counsel at the commission. Otherwise, she says, the commission prefers to nudge businesses and consumer advocates to come up with voluntary standards, which, despite their name, manufacturers are required to follow. And even in that context, the CPSC’s call for action on pods was relatively unusual—something that Falvey says happens only once or twice a year at most.

While other manufacturers also make laundry pods, P&G as the market leader took the lead role in responding—and by most accounts, the company’s actions were serious, urgent, and diligent. By mid-2012 it had already begun installing double-latch lids on the tubs containing its pods. And by the summer of 2013, P&G had changed the tubs’ design to be opaque, placating critics who felt the clear tub resembled a candy jar. Still, the number of poisonings kept climbing. In February 2015, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced federal legislation that would have forced manufacturers to make the design of packets “less attractive to children” and use less caustic ingredients.

The legislators noted that they would drop the bill if the industry took stronger action on its own. In September 2015 that effort took concrete form as manufacturers, industry lobbyists, and consumer advocates approved a new set of safety rules. The standards required that pods have opaque, difficult-to-open packaging; standardized warning labels and safety icons on packages; and burst-resistant, bitter-tasting outer film.

By 2017 the new standards had been implemented across the industry. And in June 2018 the standards committee met again to review injury numbers and determine their progress. The results they saw, depending on one’s point of view, were either a reassuring sign or an indictment of a failed safety system.

在纽约州奥尔巴尼的新闻发布会上,左为纽约州议会成员阿拉维拉·西莫塔斯(皇后区),右为州参议员布拉德·霍伊曼(曼哈顿区)检查洗衣凝珠。图片来源:David Klepper—AP

相关研究主要判断行业安全干预措施对6岁以下儿童的影响,对比了新措施实施前12个月的时间(2012年7月至2013年6月)与干预后12个月(2017年)。报告引用尼尔森数据显示,这段时间内凝珠销量翻了一番,从21亿个增加到47亿个。结果是,伤害案例占凝珠总销量比例降了53%;涉及去医院就医的伤害案例与销量的比例下降了63%;涉及重大医疗伤害或死亡的案例与销量的比例下降了86%。

在行业看来,这些数据都标志着取得进展。但在另一边的消费者代言人眼里,只看玻璃杯空着的一半,虽然按市场规模算伤害率下降,看绝对数字的话的伤害案例(根据人口增长调整后)几乎没有变化。调查期间每年前往急诊科就诊的人数仅略有下降,从4300人降至4200人,而伤害案例总数实际上略有增加,从10229人增至10776人。(根据AAPCC初步估算数据,2018年的伤害案例降至9440起,但如果充分分析数字,结果可能会略有上升。)涉及去医院治疗的伤害比例(伤害严重程度的衡量指标)略有下降,从42%降至33%。

正如美国消费者联合会的立法主任兼法律总顾问雷切尔·韦特劳布指出,报告“为双方提供了数据,一方用来证明工作进展良好,另一方则认为还有很多工作要做。”宝洁就引用数据当成行业采取干预措施成功的证据。“只要事故率持续降低,即使(毒物控制中心)接到电话的数量增加,我们也会认为出现进步,因为用凝珠洗衣服的方式是新的,人们正逐渐学习使用。” 宝洁公关团队的达蒙·琼斯和佩特拉·伦克在电子邮件里告诉《财富》杂志。

与此同时,消费者权益代表认为行业设定的门槛过低。全国儿童医院的伤害专家加里·史密斯表示,根据市场规模判断进展不够全面,史密斯参与了标准制定过程。史密斯说,150年来流行病学家一直使用绝对病例数或与病例数与高风险人群对比情况衡量公共卫生负担。“如果现在讨论的是齐卡病毒,脑病的病例数持续上升,但每个蚊子种群导致病例的数量下降,我们并不会因为比例下降高兴。”

标准制定团队计划于2019年年中再次会面,再一次审查进度。双方都希望看到进一步改善,但无法确定。丹佛毒物控制专家理查德·达特指出,伤害案例减少的速度已开始放缓。“希望伤害事件减少,这就是我们整体看待公共卫生措施的方式。”韦特劳布表示。

The studies measured the impact of the industry’s safety intervention on children under 6, comparing a 12-month period before the new measures went into effect (July 2012 to June 2013) to a 12-month period after the intervention (calendar year 2017). During that time span, the number of pods sold more than doubled, from 2.1 billion to 4.7 billion, according to Nielsen data used in the reports. The upshot: The ratio of exposures to total pods sold dropped 53%; the ratio of exposures involving health care facility treatment to sales dropped 63%; and the ratio of exposures involving major medical injuries or death to sales dropped 86%.

For the industry, these were an important sign of progress. But consumer advocates at the same table saw a glass half-empty—because while injury rates, measured by market size, were down, injuries as measured by absolute numbers (and when adjusted for population growth) barely budged. Annual emergency-¬department visits dropped only slightly over that span, from 4,300 to 4,200, while total exposures actually rose slightly, from 10,229 to 10,776. (Exposures dropped to 9,440 in 2018, according to preliminary AAPCC data, but those numbers are likely to rise slightly once the data has been fully analyzed.) And the share of total exposures involving health care facility treatment—a measure of injury severity—dipped slightly, from 42% to 33%.

As Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, notes, the reports “gave both sides data, to pursue either their views that it was working very well, or views that more needed to be done.” Today, P&G cites this data as evidence that the industry’s approach is successful. “As long as we continue to see reduction in incident rates, even if the number of [poison-control] calls increased, we would think of it as progress, as the form is new and people are learning how to use it,” Damon Jones and Petra Renck of the P&G communications team told Fortune in an email.

Consumer advocates, meanwhile, argue that the industry is setting the bar too low. Measuring progress relative to market size is an incomplete measure of success, says Gary Smith, the injury expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who has been part of the standards process. For 150 years, epidemiologists have used the absolute number of cases, or the number of cases relative to the population at risk, to measure public health burden, Smith says. “If this were Zika virus, and the number of cases of encephalopathy were still going up, but the number of cases per mosquito population were going down, we would take no comfort in that latter number.”

The standards group plans to meet again in mid-2019 for another progress review. Both sides hope to see further improvement, but that’s uncertain. Richard Dart, the Denver poison-control expert, notes that the decline in exposures has already started to slow. “We’d like the number of incidents to go down, and that’s how we look at public health measures across the board,” says Weintraub.

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