A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics has highlighted a concerning surge in child poisonings associated with laundry detergent pods. These brightly colored, self-contained detergent pods, marketed for their convenience in laundry cleaning, have inadvertently become a source of harm to young children. The alluring appearance and candy-like scent of these pods have drawn the natural curiosity of children, leading to poisonings.
The data reveals a significant increase in poisonings among young children since the introduction of these products in 2012. Shockingly, it shows that approximately every 45 minutes, a local poison control center in the United States receives a call regarding a potential child poisoning from a detergent pod.
Conducted by researchers led by Dr. Gary Smith, MD, Director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the study analyzed data over 1 year involving children under 6 years of age. Out of the 62,254 reported accidental poisonings during that period, 35% were linked to laundry detergent pods, marking a troubling 17% increase. Additionally, nearly 25% of poisonings were attributed to dishwasher detergent pods, showing a 14% increase over the same timeframe. In 85% of cases, children were poisoned through ingestion, with the remaining 15% resulting from inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes.
Common symptoms of poisoning included vomiting, but some cases involving laundry detergent pods led to life-threatening conditions such as breathing cessation, coma, and cardiac arrest. Researchers believe that these pods are more toxic than regular powder laundry or dishwasher detergents, making poisonings more severe due to the higher concentration of quickly dissolving toxic chemicals within the pods.
Two children have died from laundry detergent pod poisonings so far, but the number of injuries and potentially life-threatening incidents continues to rise. Another six adults with dementia have also died from ingesting these pods, bringing the total to date to 8 victims.
In 2018, a dangerous internet trend called the “Tide Pod Challenge” emerged, where individuals, primarily teenagers, consumed Tide Pods and recorded themselves doing so. This trend prompted concerns about health risks and led to media coverage. In January of that year, the AAPCC reported 37 cases of pod ingestion among teenagers so far that year.
In response to reports of children ingesting laundry detergent pods, Procter & Gamble (P&G) took several measures to enhance safety. They started distributing Tide Pods in opaque containers, added a bitter taste to deter consumption, and strengthened the pods to prevent bursting when squeezed. P&G also incorporated child-safety features in their packaging and issued warnings, especially for households with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Tide’s website provides guidance on safe handling, including advising consumers to drink water or milk if a pod is swallowed and to contact a poison control center for assistance.
Dr. Smith strongly emphasizes the inherent danger of having laundry detergent pods in households with young children, urging prioritization of child safety over the convenience of these self-contained cleaning pods. Manufacturers are actively working on improving childproof packaging to make it less appealing and more difficult to open. They are also engaged in a national safety campaign to educate the public on the safe use of their products around young children.
In light of these concerns, exercising common sense is crucial when it comes to the safety of curious children and potentially hazardous products. If you have young children at home, we echo the study’s authors in recommending complete avoidance of detergent pods, particularly laundry detergent pods due to their high toxicity. If you must keep such cleaning products in your home, store them out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. We also suggest saving the Poison Helpline number, 1-800-222-1222, in your smartphone for immediate assistance in case of suspected poisoning. In emergencies, dial 911.