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Although efforts have been made in recent years to reduce the risk of laundry detergent pod poisonings, which typically occur when children bite into the brightly colored liquid packets, a new study suggests many continuing problems could be avoided with additional changes to the way the products are packaged.
Single-load laundry detergent pods have become increasingly popular in households across the United States. However, the number of laundry pod child poisoning and exposures incidents has become an emerging health concern in recent years, causing thousands of emergency room visits each year, after young children placed the pods into their mouth.
In a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers set out to investigate the impact of voluntary product safety standards adopted by the industry in response to the problems.
According to researchers, the rate of hospital admissions from liquid laundry detergent packets, or pods, have decreased by approximately 55% for children six years of age and under, from 2015 to 2017, after rising steadily for several years since the pods were first introduced. However, opportunities exist to strengthen the safety of the products, to further reduce the risk of exposures.
Tide Pods and other laundry detergent packets were initially sold in containers that resembled a candy jar or snack bag, and featured bright colors and textures that resembled infant chew toys.
In 2015, the American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM) created new laundry pod packaging standards, recommending manufacturers make design changes to make the packaging less attractive to young children, making the materials harder to tear open or chew on, and coating the pods with bitter flavoring to deter children from continuing to try to bite into them.
Researchers reviewed records from the National Poison Data System, involving exposures to the highly concentrated liquid detergent between 2012 and 2017, comparing data before the new standards were adopted in 2015 to data after.
Collectively, from January 2012 through December 2017, a total of 72,947 laundry detergent packets exposure were recorded across the United States, with 91.7% of exposures involving children under the age of six years old.
Prior to the change in standards, exposures to children under six years of age had increased by approximately 110% from 2012 through 2015. When comparing those rates to the 2015 through 2017 period, rates of exposures among children six and under decreased by 18%, indicating the voluntary industry standards manipulated the inclining rate of exposure to this specific age group.
Children six and under were also found to have 55% fewer hospital admissions for laundry detergent exposure when compared to the 2012 through 2015 period.
Despite the decrease in exposure rates to children under six years of age, researchers found those over six years old continued to have increased exposure and hospital admissions before and after product packaging standards. From 2012 to 2017, this age groups rate of exposure was found to have increased by nearly 298%.
Researchers indicated the voluntary industry standards were found to have a direct impact of exposure rates among young children, but signaled that further changes could be made to further reduce exposure rates among all age groups.
A number of laundry pod exposure lawsuits have been filed against various manufacturers, alleging that inadequate steps were taken to ensure the safety of the products. Plaintiffs say stronger warnings should have been provided about the importance of keeping the pods out of the reach of children, and that individual packaging for the pods would reduce the risk of injury.
In the event a child, teen or any individual is exposed to any laundry detergent, parents and caregivers should call their local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately and have the child medically evaluated at an emergency department.