Everyday we have to worry about something else. Retail world only makes it tougher. Toy guns look to real. Cleaners look like kool-aid. Prescription drugs look like skittles or M&Ms. Now it is the detergent.
New Detergent Pods Pose Poisoning Risk
Laundry detergent makers have introduced miniature packets in recent months. Doctors warn that the brightly colored packets may pose a hazard to children.
Childhood poisonings from a new type of detergent packet have soared in recent weeks, experts say, with the total climbing to more than 1,200 this week from about 200 in late May.
Health authorities have been concerned since late March, when poison control centers around the country noted a small number of reports from parents whose children had opened and swallowed the brightly colored laundry detergent products, which are small enough to fit in a child’s palm and may be mistaken for candy. The detergent packets were introduced by a various companies over the winter as a convenience that can be easily dropped into a washing machine.
But because of their bite-size shape and candylike colors, many toddlers and small children have been eating them. Poison control centers first starting putting out alerts about two to three months ago, not long after the products were introduced in the United States. By late May, the number of reported cases had reached 200 to 250 nationwide, prompting widespread news media attention and an announcement from Tide, which makes one of the most popular forms of the products, that the company would change its packaging to make the packets more difficult for children to tamper with.
Still, poison control centers say they continue to see more and more cases. This week, the California Poison Control System announced that at least nine small children in that state were taken to emergency rooms between Saturday and Tuesday after exposure to the packets, bringing the state’s total number of cases to at least 91. Six of the latest cases in California involved Tide Pods. Two were linked to Purex Ultra Packs, and one involved All Mighty Paks.
According to the latest figures, poison centers across the country have been seeing an average of 10 cases a day, and as many as 28 a day, said Bruce Ruck, assistant director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System. All told, there have been at least 1,210 cases reported to poison control centers this year. None have been fatal, but a number of cases have been severe. At least 11 children have been placed on ventilators, and 10 have been intubated.
“We just had a really bad one the other day here in New Jersey, with a kid who ended up on a ventilator,” Dr. Ruck said. He noted that some of the cases have involved damage to children’s eyes, which may occur as children bite into the packets.
Poison experts are not sure why so many cases have been so severe. Compared with traditional powder and liquid detergent, the newer detergent packets and pods seem far more toxic. Children who have bitten into them have suffered severe nausea and vomiting, respiratory distress and metabolic abnormalities.
“The regular detergents that have been around forever don’t appear to cause the same problems, and we don’t know why,” Dr. Ruck said. “We don’t know yet what’s different about them. They’ve only been on the market a short period of time.”
In an interview, a spokesman for Tide said the company’s newer, more secure packaging should hit stores next month. But he also emphasized that like any household cleaning product, the detergent pods should be kept out of the reach of children.
Dr. Ruck warned that parents need to do more than just put these products out of the reach of children. “One of the things we’re trying to get across to parents is to not just put these up high, but to put them up very high in a locked cabinet,” he said. “You don’t want to store these on top of the washing machine or dryer, because kids will stand on chairs to get stuff. Children will find a way to get into everything.”