Laundry Detergent Pods, Capsules Pose Poisoning Risk for Children

Size and convenience make the recently introduced, single-use laundry detergent packs a growing favorite in households throughout the United States. However, a new report suggests that they pose a serious health concern for toddlers, who could be poisoned after putting the attractive, candy-like pods in their mouth. 

In a new report published online September 5 in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, health experts outlined how the risk of poisoning from laundry detergent pods and capsules poses a major health concerns.

According to doctors at Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, U.K., there has been a rise in the number of poisoning accidents involving the detergent packs, also known as liquitabs or detergent pods, particularly involving children under the age of two.

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The number of children admitted to emergency rooms with throat injuries has increased over the last 18 months and the report highlights cases where children under the age of two were admitted with adverse health symptoms after biting into one of the capsules and ingesting detergent.

Typically, eating laundry detergent results in mild upset stomach. However, according to the new report, the potent chemicals used in the formula for the fast dissolving detergent packs pose a much greater risk, which may cause more severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Biting into the packs can result in chemical burns to the esophagus, swelling of the airways, vomiting, drowsiness and wheezing. Several children admitted to the emergency room needed intubation due to swelling of the airways and one child needed additional surgery to repair extensive scar tissue. The potent chemicals can quickly cause damage to soft tissue after ingestion.

According to recent news reports, the National Poisoning Information Service in the U.K. has received more than 600 phone calls inquiring about laundry detergent poising.

This increasing risk trend is not isolated to Great Britain either. In the United States, nearly 3,000 children under the age of five swallowed detergent packs between January 1 and July 31 alone, according to the Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Experts speculate the single-use laundry detergent packs appeal to young children because of their bright colors, squishy texture and small candy-like size and appearance.

The detergent packs are designed so the outer casing quickly dissolves in water making laundry easy. This feature also makes it easy for the tabs to dissolve after coming into contact with saliva.

The liquitabs are marketed under many brand names including Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, Purex Ultra Packs, Arm & Hammer Power Packs and Dropps.

The AAPCC has recommended that consumers keep laundry detergents locked in cabinets or out of the reach of children, not under sinks. If you think your child has ingested or been exposed to a laundry detergent packet, call your local poison center at 800-222-1222 immediately.


  • MindyNovember 5, 2012 at 4:45 am

    My daughter was one of these children. Very scary how dangerous these are. Within about 30 minutes my daughters throat swelled shut and was inthubated and life flighted from emergency room to PICU.

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