Laundry Pods: Study Suggests They're 'Increasingly Dangerous' For Kids

Laundry pods, the popular alternative to laundry detergent that solves the problem of having to measure out the right amount of soap, are "increasingly dangerous" to small children, according to a new study to be published in the journal Pediatrics.

As CBS Newsreports, Dr. Gary Smith, the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and his team studied data from more than 62,000 calls made to U.S. poison control centers involving exposure to laundry pods, and dishwasher pods, in children under six years of age.

Between 2013 and 2014, the number of cases of accidental ingestion of laundry pods rose 17 percent. Similarly, the number of cases of accidental ingestion of dishwasher pods, which are similar in appearance and nature to laundry pods, rose 14 percent.

"We found that the majority of poisonings were due to exposure to laundry detergent packets and unfortunately it was precisely those products that were causing the greatest toxicity."

Laundry pods look attractive to kids -- they're brightly-colored and are of a similar size and shape to some forms of candy.

Unfortunately, those laundry pods are toxic to children. The most common reactions to laundry pods include nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation. However, of the 22,000 cases of laundry pod ingestion reported between 2013 and 2014, 17 cases resulted in comas, six resulted in respiratory arrest, four resulted in fluid in the lungs, and two children died.

In 2015, according to WFLA (Tampa), Klinda Mann turned her back on her 2-year-old son, Jacquez, for "just a second" when he managed to find a laundry pod and bite down on it. He began throwing up "almost immediately," says Klinda. Panicked, she called her local poison control center.

"I tried so hard to stay calm, so my baby would remain calm. It was nerve wracking. They helped saved him, talked me through it on the phone."

Fortunately, her quick thinking, and the knowledgeable staff on the other end of the line, were able to talk her through the incident. Twenty-four hours later, Jacquez was as good as new.

Dr. Smith notes that his study underscores the importance of keeping potential poisons -- laundry soaps, cleaning supplies -- away from children. And, he says, you should monitor your kids extra closely when you're doing laundry.

"[Laundry pods] should be kept up away and out of sight of children and preferably in a locked cabinet, because really the time it takes you to pick up a pair of dirty socks and throw them into the laundry is all it's going to take for a child to put one of these in their mouth, bite down, and have it squirt down their throat."

Smith recommends further that parents consider alternatives to laundry pods, such as more traditional laundry detergent that comes in a bottle, is harder to open and doesn't resemble candy. As a result, it is less appealing to small children.

Laundry pods study.
Laundry detergent is safer than laundry pods. [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

"There is no reason why children should be rushed to hospitals in a coma and with swelling down their lungs and we have to intubate them. There's no reason why children should die when we have effective, safer alternatives for detergents."

Fortunately, the laundry detergent industry is beginning to take notice of the danger of laundry pods, according to the New York Daily News. Already Tide and Gain brands have announced plans to make laundry pod packages harder to open. Other companies are coating the pods in a "foul-tasting" substance in order to deter children from eating them.

If you believe your child has ingested laundry pods, call your local poison control center immediately.

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