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Laundry Detergent Packets Pose Poisoning Risk for Children: CPSC

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is adding its voice to an increasing number of experts that are warning about the potential risk of children suffering detergent poisoning from laundry packets, which are currently marketed by several companies. 

The CPSC issued a safety alert (PDF) this week, highlighting the risk of laundry detergent pack poisoning for children. The agency indicates that parents and caregivers should make sure the self-contained detergent packets are locked up and kept out of sight and reach of children.

The warning comes as a number of regulatory agencies and health experts have raised concerns about the risks associated with the brightly colored laundry detergent packets, which have been linked to an increasing number of poisoning cases in recent years after children chew on the small packs.

The CPSC reports that it is aware of about 500 cases so far this year involving children and adults who suffered a laundry detergent packet injury.

“Children have required hospitalization from ingesting the product due to loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing (requiring intubation),” the commission warns. “Eye contact with detergent from ruptured packets has also resulted in medical treatment for severe irritation and temporary vision loss due to ocular burns.”

Bright and Colorful Laundry Detergent Packs Attract Children

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.  Many also resemble teething toys, which toddlers commonly chew on.

Some reports suggest that the problems experienced with the laundry detergent packs are even larger than the CPSC estimates. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued a similar warning about laundry detergent pod dangers last month, indicating that there were twice as many incidents that occurred just between May and early June of this year.

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. They indicate that more than 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.

Detergent Packet Safety Tips

The CPSC recommended the following safety steps 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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