Researchers are telling parents of young children to stop using colorful, convenient, but super-concentrated laundry detergent pods due to a shocking uptick in cases where they’ve been linked to poisonings.
Dr. Gary Smith, the lead researcher in a new study, described the risk in blunt terms, according to U.S. News and World Report.
“All they have to do is put them in their mouth and bite down and the packet will burst, and once these toxic chemicals get down their throat the game’s over.”
His study examined calls to poison control centers to determine how many cases were caused by the laundry detergent pods. The statistics unearthed are sobering: in 2013 and 2014, calls reporting poisonings caused by the pods increased 17 percent, CNN reported.
Researchers found this increase after analyzing calls made to U.S. poison control centers after children under age 6 were exposed to the laundry or dishwasher detergent pods. In the years studied, poisonings increased for all types of detergents, but it was the greatest for the pods.
More than 22,000 kids under age 3 were exposed during the time period studied. Thirty percent of them were already on their way to the hospital when the call was made.
More than 30 percent of the time, 2-year-olds suffered poisonings by ingesting the concentrated laundry detergent; they accounted for 17 percent of poisonings from dishwasher detergent.
More than 62,000 calls were made to emergency departments to report such incidents. Among these cases, 17 children went into comas, six stopped breathing, four suffered fluid in their lungs and trouble breathing, and two passed away. The detergent can also cause vomiting, burns to the throat, and eye injuries.
Smith said more than 60 percent of calls were caused by the laundry detergent pods.
“That’s about 30 children a day, or one child about every 45 minutes. Over the two years of the study, poisoning from detergent packets increased 17 percent, and in 2015 there was another 7 percent increase.”
According to researchers, their findings indicate that the pods are more toxic than other detergents. The differences between chemical composition and concentration “may account for the higher toxicity observed.”
The packets have been around since 2012 and were touted as a cleaner option to powdered forms. They can contain either granules or liquid; based on the data, the liquid is considered more dangerous.
Children may be attracted to the pods because they’re colorful, have strong smells, and can be mistaken for food or candy. They’re also not tamper-proof.
Recently, the makers of these packets were urged to improve their safety, but the measure was voluntary. Researchers now say those measures aren’t enough, since poisonings keep occurring. Smith suggested they not be sold at all.
“We may have to strengthen that standard. If that doesn’t work, then these products should be taken off the market, because we do have safer, effective alternatives.”
A spokeswoman with P&G, which makes Gain and Tide, said “accidents happen regardless of a laundry pac’s color or design, so we are focused on reducing access to the packet and its contents.”
Poisonings occur when children find the pods at home, which aren’t properly stored away in a locked cabinet or out of sight, or parents aren’t monitoring their kids when the containers are open.
The danger has led researchers to ask parents not use the pods if they have young kids, but rather stick to the traditional, less toxic, forms of detergent.
“We don’t have to expose children to these threats,” Smith said.
If child does swallow a laundry detergent pod, they should call poison control immediately and follow their instructions.
[Photo By Melpomene / Shutterstock]