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Laundry detergent pods may be convenient, but can pose serious poisoning risk to children

February 16, 2015

The convenience of being able to throw a laundry pod into the washer without having to measure out liquid or powder detergent is a time saver, for sure. However, for families with small children, the benefits do not outweigh the potential risks. Because toddlers love to explore their surroundings, and oftentimes find themselves into things they shouldn’t be, laundry pods pose a serious poisoning risk to these curious adventurists. The bright colors of the laundry pods can be easily mistaken for juice or candy, and the soft, pliable texture make it fun for kids to squeeze or play with. What they don’t realize is that this “fun toy” could be detrimental to their health, and it could land them in the emergency room in a matter of seconds.

The Study

Since laundry pods have been available in the United States for about four years, they have become a significant poisoning threat for young children. A report pulled from U.S. poison control centers from 2012 – 2013 showed there were over 17,000 calls logged about children exposed to these convenient laundry aids, which is equivalent to one every hour. Three-quarters of these cases involved children under the age of three. In this same report, it was found that laundry pods had resulted in 700 children requiring hospital admission, often to the intensive care unit, and one death.

After analyzing the effects of laundry detergent exposure, researchers found that children experienced symptoms such as: vomiting, coughing or choking, eye pain or irritation, drowsiness, and/or red eye or inflammation of the eye.

It is still unclear why laundry detergent pods seem to be more toxic than dishwasher detergent pods, other than that the dishwasher varieties are chemically different and have not yet caused this kind of widespread problem. Many pod manufacturers have responded to this alarming issue by putting latches on pod containers and making them opaque so kids can’t see in them. But health experts say this still isn’t good enough.

What can parents do to help keep their little ones safe?

Here are some recommendations for parents and families with small children:
  • Use traditional laundry detergents instead of laundry pods, as they are less toxic and not as appealing to toddlers
  • Store detergent pods out of sight from young children, preferably in a locked cabinet or out of arms reach on a high shelf
  • Ensure that detergent pods are stored away immediately after use
  • In case of emergency, keep the number for the Poison Control hotline (1.800.222.1222) by your home phones and store it in your cell phone
If you are concerned that your child may have ingested a laundry pod because of the symptoms noted above, call the Poison Control hotline or your child’s pediatrician. In case of emergency, call 911 immediately.

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