Detergent Poisonings from Liquid Laundry Packets Continue to Rise

Brightly colored laundry detergent packets continue to attract more and more young children, who unknowingly put the single-use packets in their mouths, causing serious side effects and injuries. 

According to a safety update released by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), there were more than 12,000 reports of problems last year involving children 5 years old or younger exposed to laundry pods, which was 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.

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“Highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry packets can cause serious harm to young children,” said the safety update.

Each year poison control centers receive calls concerning children who have ingested laundry detergent packets; but the numbers have been increasing sharply in recent years.

In 2013, there were 10,356 poison control reports involving laundry packets involving young children, which was up from 6,275 in 2012. While officials hoped to see a decrease this year following recent efforts to warn consumers and change packaging, a total of 11,711 reports of laundry detergent packet problems were received between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (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.

Health experts warn parents and caregivers that laundry packets should be kept in a locked cabinet, or in a closed and sealed container with child-proof caps stored high out of the reach of children. They also advise that local poison control centers should be contacted if any children are exposed to the liquid laundry detergent packets.

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