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Dozens of Children Exposed To Laundrey Packet Contents Each Day, Group Warns

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Despite attempts in recent years to raise awareness about the risk of laundry detergent packet poisoning, a health advocacy group indicates that about 30 children continue to require emergency room treatment each day after coming into contact with the highly concentrated detergent contained in the single-load pods. 

The child advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide released a statement on June 23, warning occupants of households with small children take steps to keep laundry packets out of the reach of children.

The laundry packets have increased in popularity in recent years, marketed under names like Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, Purex Ultra Packs, Arm & Hammer Power Packs and Dropps. As more and more households purchase these individual packs of laundry detergent, which are pre-measured for a single load, the group warns that parents need to be aware of the serious and potentially life-threatening side effects young children may face if they put them into their mouth.

The detergent is often contained in brightly colored gel packets, which are often sold in packaging that makes them resemble a child’s chew toy or candy.

Safe Kids Worldwide projects that roughly 20% of the U.S. population now uses laundry detergent pods and anticipates that number to increase, posing an increasing safety hazards in more homes.

The laundry detergent pods are a concentrated, single dose product designed to dissolve in water in the washing machine. However, Safe Kids Worldwide warns that in the event a child puts a laundry pod in their mouth, it will begin to dissolve and release the concentrated liquids inside.

Exposure to laundry packet liquids may cause a child to lose consciousness, have difficulty breathing, experience vomiting, severe burning eyes, or temporary loss of vision. In severe cases, these injuries could be life threatening, but most all occurrences require immediate medical attention.

According to the group, at least 30 children a day are treated at emergency rooms for laundry packet exposure. Between 2012 and 2013, more than 700 children of ages 5 and under experienced serious effects as a result of liquid laundry packet ingestion with the highest percentage impacting 1 and 2 year olds. On average there were 33,000 laundry pod ingestion incidents reported to Poison Control Centers annually between 2012 and 2015.

Despite warnings issued by federal safety regulators and several manufacturers, children and those with mental disabilities continue to suffer injuries when the packages are mistaken for a candy or teething toy. Many of the packs are brightly colored and equivalent to a candy in size, which critics say commonly misleads children.

President of Safe Kids Worldwide, Kate Carr, states that all of these incidents are preventable if parents and caregivers take the right precautionary steps, such as keeping the liquid laundry packets out of children’s reach and sight. The group recommends that parents also keep the packets in their original container and keep the container closed so children cannot see them and mistake them for candy. Parents should also keep these laundry pads in a separate pantry away from food products to ensure that if a child is looking for a snack it is not easily mistaken.

Carr stated that Safe Kids Worldwide has teamed up with Tide and Gain to raise awareness of these preventable incidents. P&G which makes Tide laundry detergent announced that their teaming up with Safe Kids Worldwide as well as with the American Cleaning Institute has launched the “Up Up and Away” campaign to raise public awareness that these detergents and other household cleaning supplies should not be kept under kitchen cabinets or bathroom sinks but up high and out of sight where they are not accessible.

Concerns About Laundry Detergent Packs

Other safety advocate groups have pressed for similar reforms of laundry detergent pods such as Consumer Reports, who called for requirements that each pod be individually wrapped with non-dissolving, tough material to reduce the risk of accidental ingestion by children.

Consumer Reports indicated that these strategies have worked in the past, referencing the Finish Powerball Tabs dishwasher detergent pods that use this method.

Last year, there were 13,314 cases of laundry packet exposure reported, according to poison control centers, with 11,714, involving children ages six and under. The rates were up 20% from 2013. The incidents resulted in 4,110 people going to the hospital and 59 critical illnesses.

The increased reports in 2014 corresponded with a nearly 30% increase in laundry pod sales.

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.

In response to the continuing reports of detergent poisonings which have prompted several laundry detergent pod injury lawsuits, U.S. 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 known as the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act, which calls for new regulation on the design of the single-load laundry detergent pods.

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