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Laundry Pod Poisoning Risks Not Only Apply to Children, But Also Adults With Dementia: Consumer Reports

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Although most media attention on the risk of laundry detergent pod poisonings has focused on infants and young children, who are often enticed to place the brightly colored gel packs in their mouths during teething, Consumer Reports warns that the single-load detergent packages should be removed from any homes where adults with dementia or other cognitive impairments reside.

According to an article published by Consumer Reports this week, adults with dementia also face an increased risk of suffering serious and potentially fatal adverse health consequences as a result of ingesting the concentrated detergent contained in laundry pods.

The report indicates that at least six of the eight deaths from laundry pods over the last several years have involved seniors with dementia.

Laundry pods have become increasingly popular since they were first introduced in U.S. markets in 2011, providing a pre-measured detergent pack that is designed to be tossed into a washing machine for a single load.

Over the past 12 months, Consumer Reports indicates that laundry pods accounted for 17% of all detergent sales, and that number is expected to increase, posing a widening health risk in homes nationwide.

The pods contain highly concentrated detergent that is encapsulated in a water-soluble membrane. Once placed in a washing machine, the polyvinyl alcohol capsule dissolves, allowing various blends of poisonous detergents to enter the machine. However, the laundry packs are typically sold in bright colors and contained in packaging that makes them resemble candy or an infant teething toy.

Although convenient, the number of reported laundry pod poisoning problems have continued to rise each year since the products hit the market, typically after children or mentally impaired individuals placed the product in their mouths or bit into the gel packs. Consumer Reports indicates that in 2015, more than 1,000 laundry detergent pod related injuries were received every month, with 71% classified as poisoning cases which resulted in hospitalizations.

Consumer Reports reviewed information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed earlier this year with the CPSC, and found from the data that six of the eight deaths recorded from laundry detergent pods between 2012 and 2017 involved seniors with some form of dementia.

The latest fatality report reviewed occurred last year, involving an 87-year-old woman named Edith who suffered from dementia. According to the report, Edith was found by one of her children unconscious in her home due to laundry detergent pod poisoning after ingesting several packets. She was rushed to a local hospital in Texas but was pronounced dead two days later. Subsequently, the medical examiner ruled Edith’s death an accident, listing the consumption of laundry detergent ingestion as the cause of death.

Although 94% of all the laundry pod poisoning accidents involve young children ages five and under who typically put the detergent packets in their mouth because they resemble candy or a teething toy, little is known about why individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s would ingest the pods.

Proctor & Gamble, the laundry detergent pod industry leader, has been working with the Alzheimer’s Association over the past year to develop a checklist caregivers can use to make homes safer for adults with cognitive impairment. According to Consumer Reports, P & G plans to have their checklist provided with every purchase by summer 2017, and will ultimately appear on the company’s website.

In early 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recognized the growing laundry pod poisoning risks, and pressed the manufacturers to adopt new standards to safeguard children and those with mental handicaps.

By September 2015, the ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, developed new standards in response to the CPSC and various consumer advocacy groups, however these standards were only voluntary guidelines.

A number of laundry pod poisoning lawsuits have been pursued against various manufacturers, alleging that inadequate warnings and safety precautions were taken to prevent misuse of the detergent products.

Consumer Reports indicates much is still needed by the industry leaders to ensure the safety of children, as well as adults, who may come in contact with the laundry detergent pods. At this time, Consumer Reports is urging anyone caring for someone with a mental handicap or form of dementia should refrain from keeping laundry pods in their home.

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