The Grapevine

Laundry Detergent Pods Poisoned Thousands Of Children Last Year, Parents Should Take Caution

Laundry Detergent Pods Pose Threat To Kids
Laundry detergent pods look like candy to children, and poison them by the thousands each year. Photo courtesy of Flickr, Mike Mozart

Laundry detergent pods are tiny, plastic pouches full of cleaning solution and potential danger to children. The small packets don’t require any measuring, and can be tossed into the machine with ease, but not without risk. Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital studied poison control reports for over a year and found a startlingly high number of incidences.

"Laundry detergent pods are small, colorful, and may look like candy or juice to a young child," said the study’s coauthor Dr. Marcel J. Casavant, chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, in a press release. Casavant and his team found a child swallows, inhales, or breaks one open every hour in the U.S. "It can take just a few seconds for children to grab them, break them open, and swallow the toxic chemicals they contain, or get the chemicals in their eyes."

Laundry detergent pods hit shelves in 2010, and it only took three years before Consumer Reports warned of their dangers to children. They began to spread in popularity when Procter & Gamble released Tide Pods to consumers in February 2012. By May 2012, there were already about 700 reports to poison-control centers regarding children getting their hands on the candy-like detergents.

Incidence rate have skyrocketed. Between 2012 and 2013, there were 17,230 reports of children aged 6 and younger who had swallowed or inhaled the pods. Out of those children, 769 of them needed to be hospitalized, and one child even died. Two-thirds of those cases were 1- and 2-year-old children. Manufacturers have tried to make them less appealing to kids by changing their packaging and making them less see-through. They have even tried to deter children by placing warning labels on each pod packet, despite the fact a vast majority of the children ingesting the pods cannot read.

This stuff is poison to children. Nearly half of the children that were reported to poison control had vomited after exposure. Many of them also began coughing uncontrollably, choking; experiencing eye pain or irritation, red eye or conjunctivitis; and in more critical situations, drowsiness or lethargy.

"It is not clear that any laundry detergent pods currently available are truly child resistant; a national safety standard is needed to make sure that all pod makers adopt safer packaging and labeling," said the study’s lead author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in the release. "Parents of young children should use traditional detergent instead of detergent pods."

4 Safety Tips For Parents:

  1. Use traditional laundry detergent, which is less toxic than the concentrated pods. It’s also less attractive to a child.
  2. Put safety locks on any and all cabinets with cleaning chemicals. If you continue to purchase the pods, keep them well out of reach of a child.
  3. Put the pods away immediately after use. They must be removed from a child's reach immediately, as ingestion could happen within seconds.
  4. Save the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone, and place it within reach of landline phones.
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