Those little laundry detergent pods that have gotten so popular pose “a serious poisoning risk to young children,” says a study in the journal Pediatrics.
The pods are small packets of concentrated detergent in a water-soluble sack. Many are packaged colorfully and look like candy. Children are swallowing them or bursting them open, “exposing their skin or eyes to the detergent chemicals,” the study said.
From 2012 through 2013, it said, more than 17,000 children younger than 6 were exposed to the pre-measured pods, with many kids ingesting them.
A small number of those exposed — 4.4 percent — required hospitalization, some requiring mechanical ventilation. There was a single confirmed death, the study said.
Children younger than 3 accounted for 73.5 percent of the cases.
“Serious medical consequences have been documented, including respiratory distress, marked lethargy and depression of consciousness,” the study reported. For reasons the authors said they did not yet understand, the chemical formulation of the pods appears to be more dangerous than regular detergent that comes out of a box or bottle.
Adults have made mistakes with the pods too. Jessica Morin of Houston told the Associated Press that her 9-month-old daughter Marlow was sickened earlier this year when Jessica’s grandmother mistook a detergent pod for a teething toy and put it in the baby’s mouth.
“I called poison control and they said to take her to the ER immediately,” Morin said. Marlow was repeatedly vomiting and underwent tests, but doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital found no serious damage and she didn’t need to stay overnight, said the AP.
“We were very lucky,” Morin said. “We don’t have those pods in our house anymore.”
The pods started to become popular in 2012. The study suggested changes in product packaging and labeling and possibly a reformulation of the detergent to make the pods less dangerous.
The team that did the study was led by Amanda L. Valdez of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, using data from the National Poison Data System.
In a statement, the American Cleaning Institute, which represents manufacturers of detergents, said companies “have directly engaged parents and caregivers, as well as poison control centers, pediatricians and other medical professionals, educators and social service providers in alerting them to the potential for childhood accidents if these products are not properly stored.” The statement continued:
In addition, manufacturers have made major changes to their packaging including the addition of easy-to-understand safety icons, improving warning labels to advise proper use and storage instructions, and changing to opaque packaging so the single dose packets are not visible from the outside.
Manufacturers of these products have been engaged with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to coordinate actions promoting reduced accidents since 2012.
The commission warned in 2012 of the potential hazards to children. In response, the cleaning institute put out guidance on labeling, packaging and design to try to reduce the chances of children getting into the pods.