By: Martha Garcia | Published: October 23rd, 2012
Laundry detergent pods pose a significant and growing risk to young children, according to a new report by federal health regulators.
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the dangers laundry detergent pods pose to young children.
Laundry pods are small packets, self-contained capsules containing detergent, which are meant to be simply dropped into a washing machine without the need to measure or handle the liquid itself.
The products are often bright and colorful, and can be mistaken by children as some form of toy or candy. Many also resemble teething toys, which toddlers commonly chew on.
The CDC and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) began tracking reported exposures to laundry detergent and laundry detergent pods among young children in May.
The CDC and AAPCC found over 1,000 reports involving problems caused by exposure to laundry detergent between May and early June. The exposures, reported by the National Poison Data System (NPDS), found that nearly 50% of the incidents involved laundry detergent pods, with nearly 94% of the children involved being five years of age or younger.
Nearly all the exposures involved an unintentional incident, where children came into contact with the pods accidentally. A large majority of the children developed severe symptoms beyond vomiting, such as gastrointestinal problems, respiratory adverse health effects, and changes in mental status.
Significantly, officials found the average age related to exposure of laundry detergent pods was much younger than the children exposed to regular laundry detergent. The average age was 3 years old in comparison to seven years of age for children exposed to laundry detergent not in pod form.
Detergent Pods Cause Severe Side Effects
The report also outlined several case reports conducted by the Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Poison Control Center Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The reports detailed four children who were admitted to the hospital following emergency room visits involving exposure to laundry detergent pods.
The children initially presented with symptoms of spitting and vomiting, which quickly progressed, in one case within only ten minutes, to more severe symptoms such as profuse vomiting, mental status changes, respiratory distress and seizures. Several of the children required intubation to open blocked airways and aid with breathing.
The laundry detergent pods, which are marketed by many different brands such as Tide, All, Purex and Arm & Hammer, were introduced into the U.S. market in 2010. The potent chemicals used in the convenient detergent packs pose a much greater health risk for children than typical laundry detergent, and may cause severe or life-threatening symptoms.
The CDC report investigation comes after a recent study conducted in Great Britain that was published in early September, which found an increased risk of poisoning from laundry detergent pods among young children.
The AAPCC also recently reported nearly 3,000 children in the U.S. have swallowed the laundry detergent pods during the first half of the year, January through July.
Experts believe the detergent packs appeal to young children because of their bright colors, squishy texture and small candy-like size and appearance. No deaths associated with laundry detergent pod exposure have been reported.
Officials recommend parents keep laundry detergents and other household cleaning agents locked in cabinets or out of the reach of children. If you believe your child has been exposed to a laundry detergent pack, call your local poison center at 800-222-1222 immediately.