When laundry detergent pods were introduced to the market in 2012, they reflected the consumer desire for ease and convenience. It didn’t take long for stories of childhood poisonings from ingesting these single-load, laundry detergent packages that look like candy to come out. (In fact, The PediaBlog looked at the problem last year in the post “Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222.”) A new study published in Pediatrics reveals what a serious poisoning risk these pods pose to young children. Catherine Saint Louis says that in 2012 and 2013, “more than 17,000 children under age 6 ate or inhaled the contents or squirted concentrated liquid from a packet into their eyes…”:
“These 17,000 children we found amounts to one child every hour being exposed to one of these laundry pod products,” said Dr. Marcel J. Casavant, a study author and the medical director of the poison center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “That’s a very different order of magnitude than other hazards.”
Most of the cases occurred among children aged 1 or 2, and nearly 80 percent involved ingestion of the contents of a packet. Two deaths of children have been confirmed, one in Florida and another in New Jersey.
Saint Louis explains what happens when the contents of these pods are ingested by a young child:
Most commonly, children vomited, became lethargic, irritated their eyes, coughed or choked, the researchers found. About 6,000 were seen in emergency rooms. About 750 were hospitalized, and half required intensive care. The laundry packets tend to burst in a child’s mouth, and the concentrated contents can be swallowed all at once.
“They are made with almost like a very thin Saran wrap that dissolves when wet,” said Dr. Cynthia Aaron, the medical director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, which contributes to the national database. “They bite on it, and the contents go to the back of their throat.”
Underscoring “the need to increase efforts to prevent exposure to these products,” the study’s authors spoke with Andrew M. Seaman:
Smith said parents need to recognize the toxicity of these laundry detergent pods. They also need to close the packages and put them away in a locked cabinet.
“We’re actually recommending if parents have young children in the home, they should use traditional laundry detergent,” he said.
Gray said the pods need to be treated like any other chemical. “They need to be kept out of reach and they need to be locked up,” he said.
Smith said industry is moving in the right direction by crafting new and more child-resistant packaging.
By six months old, babies are starting to sit up and stay up all by themselves. It won’t be long until they start to get mobile, giving them the opportunity to get into things they shouldn’t get into. Crawling around the house at the same eye level as your older infant and toddler will give parents a valuable perspective on the common dangers tempting your children at home. Whether the danger is a coin on the floor, a kitchen chemical under the sink, or a colorful laundry pod, that perspective may someday save a life.
Remember the number to your Poison Control Center: