Detergent Pod Poisonings Lead to Proposed Federal Law to Improve Safety

In response to the continuing reports of laundry detergent pod poisonings, which have been linked to thousands of serious and potentially life-threatening problems among children, some lawmakers are calling for new legislation to address safety concerns surrounding the single-load packets. 

Last month, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, and U.S. Representative Jackie Speier of California, introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that seeks to make the detergent pods safer and to reduce the risk of children being poisoned by the potent detergent contained in the small packs.

The legislation is known as the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act, calling for new regulation on the design of the single-load laundry detergent pods.

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According to safety update released by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) in January, there were more than 12,000 reports of problems last year involving children 5 years old or younger exposed to laundry pods. These figures represent a substantial increase over 2013, despite efforts to raise awareness about the risk of laundry detergent poisoning from the popular products.

Officials say that the single-load packets, which are sold under names like Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, Purex UltraPacks and others, are especially appealing to young children because of the soft, squishy packaging that resembles an infant teething toy and bright colors that resemble candy.

If approved, the act would order the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue rules for improvements and safety measures to be incorporated into the detergent pods within 18 months from the bill’s passage. The improvements would include better child-proof packaging for the container where the single-use packets are stored, designs and colors for the detergent pods that make them less appealing to children, pod compositions that will make the side effects of exposure less severe, and better label warnings that properly alert parents and caretakers of the risks.

“Anyone with common sense can see how dangerous it is to have liquid detergent in colorful, bite-sized packets that children will inevitably swallow,” Congresswoman Speier said in a press release. “These packets must be subject to the same robust safety measures and warning labels that we already expect on detergent, medicine, and similar household products. Toxic, concentrated detergent should not look like candy. It is irresponsible to market a product that is so unsafe to children.”

Laundry Detergent Pack Poisoning Risks

The CPSC first began to voice concerns about children suffering laundry detergent poisoning from the small packs in 2012, when warnings were issued that urged caregivers to be aware of the risks and to store the products out of sight and reach of children.

Children who ingest laundry detergent often experience upset stomach. However, exposure to the concentrated packets can cause much more severe injury, typically resulting in excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some children become extremely sleepy, resulting in sleeping problems that are serious enough to require a ventilator to help them breathe. Other reports have included children who have experienced corneal abrasion, scratches to the cornea of the eye, after the detergent got into their eyes.

In response to substantial criticism over the brightly colored packaging Tide Pods are sold in, Proctor & Gamble did agree to make several changes to their product packages in 2013. The manufacturer altered the containers to an opaque material, instead of a clear plastic, to deter children from seeing the brightly colored product and trying to get inside the contain.

Despite the packaging changes and warnings, the AAPCC indicates that reports of problems continue to rise.

A number of families throughout the United States are now considering laundry detergent pack lawsuits as a result of injuries suffered by their children after exposure to the products. According to allegations raised in the claims, manufacturers have failed to do enough to market and package the laundry pods in a way that reduces the risk of injury, and fail to adequately warn consumers about the potential risks for children.

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