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Laundry Packet Ingestion Problems Continue, Despite Awareness Efforts

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Despite recent efforts to increase awareness about the risk of laundry detergent poisoning caused by children ingesting single-load packets introduced by several companies in recent years, a large number of poison control reports involving exposures to the laundry packs continue to be received.

According to a safety update released by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) this month, more than 5,600 reports of problems have been received nationwide so far this year involving children ages 5 or younger who were exposed to single-load laundry packets.

Also known as detergent pods or capsules, the laundry packets have been introduced by a number of different manufacturers in recent years, containing the detergent in small, colorful, soft plastic packs that dissolve in the washing machine.

Sold under brand names like Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, Purex UltraPacks and others, the laundry packets often resemble infant chew toys or candy, and are sometimes sold in containers or bags similar to child snack foods.

If children ingest the laundry detergent in the packets, they could face serious and potentially life-threatening health risks. There has been a spike in reports involving poisonings over the past few years, often involving toddlers or young children chewing on the pods or putting them in to their mouths.

Children typically experience mild upset stomach after swallowing laundry detergent. However, experts warn the new highly concentrated single-load liquid detergent packets cause different symptoms, such as excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some children become very sleepy, while others report experiencing breathing problems and may ultimately need a ventilator to help them breathe. Exposing the packets to their eyes may also cause corneal abrasions, or scratches.

In 2012, more than 6,000 reports involving laundry packet exposures for children under the age of five were received by poison control centers nationwide, which increased to just over 10,000 last year.

Although efforts have been introduced in recent years to raise awareness among parents and to make packaging design changes, it appears that the number of reports is continuing to increase. If the current trend continues, more than 11,000 reports will be received in 2014.

Efforts to Raise Awareness of Laundry Packet Poisoning Risk

In 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued warnings to alert the public about the risk of detergent packet injuries.

The safety alert highlighted the poisoning risk the packets pose to children who are exposed to the product, and came after several other regulatory agencies and health experts raised concerns about the risks associated with the single-use detergent packets.

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 last year. 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 container.

Many consumer advocacy groups have called for even further design and packaging changes to reduce the risk of children being poisoned, and the continuing exposure reports involving the laundry packs may be further evidence that additional actions are needed.

The CPSC included laundry packets among the top risks focused on during Poison Prevention Week earlier this year, hoping to raise awareness further and help avoid exposures and poisonings that may save children from serious side effects or even death.

The AAPCC urges parents to keep containers closed, sealed and stored up high out of the reach of children to prevent unintentional exposure.

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