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Laundry Detergent Pod Death Increases Calls for New Safety Standards

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Following the death of a seven-month old infant from laundry detergent poisoning, manufacturers are facing increasing pressure to place new safeguards on the popular single-load detergent pods, which have been linked to a number of serious injuries when infants or young children chewed on the brightly colored capsules.  

Michael Williams died last month after swallowing a laundry detergent packet at a woman’s shelter in Kissimmee, Florida. While the cause of death is still under investigation, the incident has renewed concerns about the safety of these products that have been introduced by a number of companies in recent years and resulted in calls for new safety standards to prevent child poisonings.

The laundry packs are small capsules that contain 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. Among the various brand name for these products are Tide Pods, Purex UltraPacks, all Mighty Packs and others.

According to state poisoning centers in Florida, at least 252 children ages five and younger have fallen ill from exposure to laundry detergent pods in that state alone just this year. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 5,753 children ages 5 and younger were exposed to single-load laundry packets nationwide between January 1 and July 31 of this year.

These numbers are on track to top the 6,216 exposures reported in all of 2012 involving children age five and younger.

In response to increasing pressure, last month the industry began crafting new voluntary safety standards for the laundry detergent packets, and in June the American Cleaning Institute launched a safety campaign aimed at warning parents and caretakers of the dangers of the pods.

According to a safety website on the use and storage of Tide Pods, Proctor & Gamble suggests that even with the new packaging, Tide Pods should be stored out of the reach of children in a locked cabinet.

Laundry Pod Warning Issued

In November, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a laundry detergent pod poisoning safety alert, highlighting the risk the pods may pose for children.

Nearly all of the reported exposures have involved an unintentional incident, where children came into contact with the pods accidentally. A large number of children developed severe symptoms beyond vomiting, such as gastrointestinal problems, respiratory adverse health effects, and changes in mental status.

In response to the poisoning concerns, the CPSC recommended the following safety steps last year to prevent unintentional laundry detergent packet poisoning:

  • Do not let children handle laundry detergent packets.
  • Keep detergent packets sealed in their original packaging, and ensure that they are locked up, out of sight and reach of children.
  • Call Poison Help immediately at 1-800-222-1222 if the packets are swallowed or exposed to the eye.

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