Detergent Packets are Poisoning


Detergent packets are poisoning, on average one child every hour of the day – We cannot let this fact get washed away.

A laundry product sold for adult convenience has rapidly become not only a serious and dangerous threat to the safety of small children but is poisoning children at a remarkable rate. Over 17,000 times in two years Poison Control was called with a case of a child being poisoned, says a report in November’s Pediatrics.

Laundry-detergent capsules like the ones popularized by Tide are a serious poisoning risks to young children. This new study calls on manufacturers to make modifications so that the products will be safer. Doctors are trying to remind parents, caregivers and daycare centers to keep these poison packets locked up and away from the reach of small young children. The single-use packets — often called "pods" after the popular Tide Pods brand — sent an average of one child a day to hospitals in 2012 and 2013, the first two years they were widely available in the United States, Roughly once an hour, a child under 6 was exposed to the concentrated detergents in the packets, researchers say. About 4.4% of those children were hospitalized, and one death has been linked to the product with more than 100 cases in which children were put on breathing machines.

Numbers for 2014 are not yet available, but the danger persists, says lead researcher Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Children ages 1 and 2 — old enough to be mobile but too young to recognize danger — are most at risk, he says. "These products are colorful. They can look like candy or juice to a young child." These small young children are injured simply by ingesting a portion of the highly concentrated detergent contained inside the dissolvable packet.

In typical cases, children bite or poke through the thin, dissolvable packet membrane and "get this concentrated squirt of detergent down their throats" or in their eyes, he says. The children tend to get much sicker than those exposed to traditional laundry detergent, Smith says. Vomiting and coughing are common; in rarer cases, comas, seizures and breathing problems occur. There is possible hope. The report noted that calls to poison centers about the products started to decline in late 2013. However data from 2014 will be needed to see if there is a sustained decline. Packaging changes and education efforts by manufacturers, pediatricians and others may have contributed. Since early reports surfaced, some producers and manufacturers added visible warning labels and made packaging harder to open and potentially less attractive to children. However the danger still exists if the packets fall to the floor, are left unattended, or are left reachable at a small child’s level. In any case, the report says, "It is not clear that the pod containers of any brand currently on the market are truly child-resistant." The researchers call for new voluntary packaging standards. An effort to develop such standards is underway and manufacturers are involved in the process, according to a statement from the American Cleaning Institute.

The institute, which represents companies that make cleaning products, says it is important to remind parents and other caregivers to keep laundry packets and all other household cleaners away from children. The study, which was conducted by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, should put more pressure on manufacturers to implement more aggressive visible measures to keep your children from being exposed to this dangerous product. Due to its similar color and shape, children appear to mistake the deadly packet as candy.

Doctors told the Wall Street Journal last year that the concentrated nature of the product heightened the risks to children who come into contact with them. Plus, the packets are encased in a dissolvable film and tend to burst when bitten into, shooting the detergent down children’s throats. The doctors were also concerned that the formulation of the products make them more dangerous. Some have pointed to a higher amount of surfactants in the laundry capsules relative to regular detergent as a possible cause. Surfactants are compounds like soap that help oil and dirt dissolve in water and are very strong acting chemicals.

By comparison children have sampled regular laundry detergent over the years without much incident, since they usually were turned off by the taste before they could ingest enough to cause problems, poison-control experts have said. The concentrated packets provide a large burst of strong acting chemicals. That is the danger. The laundry industry says parents need to be part of the solution. According to a survey by the American Cleaning Institute, just 34% of households store their unit-dose laundry packets in a cabinet or lock it away. Sadly but telling, most people who responded to the survey said they keep the products well within arm’s reach of children.

Sources: Wall street Journal U.S.A Today Pediatrics Journal

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