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Despite efforts to combat the risk of laundry pod poisoning, high rates of problems involving exposure to the concentrated detergent continue to be reported to poison centers nationwide, mostly involving children.
The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. poison centers are receiving calls of children under the age of six being exposed to the single-use detergent packets at a rate of about 30 per day. So far this year, they have received at least 2,719 such reported incidents among kids.
While most of the focus in recent years has been on reducing the risk of children being poisoned by laundry detergent pods, the Wall Street Journal points out that young kids are not the only ones at risk. At least two fatalities have been reported involving seniors with dementia who came in contact with the gel contained within laundry pods.
The number of incidents have raised concerns about the warnings and packaging provided by the manufacturers of products like Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, Purex UltraPacks and others, which contain brightly colored packs and are often sold in packaging that resembles candy or a toy.
The single-load packs are designed to be dropped into the washing machine to provide the appropriate amount of laundry detergent. Given the concentrated nature of the detergent, ingesting the liquid inside a laundry pod may cause severe and potentially life-threatening injuries, often requiring immediate hospitalization.
Despite warnings issued by federal safety regulators and several manufacturers, children and those with mental disabilities continue to suffer injuries when the packages are mistaken for a candy or teething toy.
Last year there were 13,314 cases of laundry packet exposure reported, according to poison control centers, with 11,714, involving children ages six and under. The rates were up 20% from 2013. The incidents resulted in 4,110 people going to the hospital and 59 critical illnesses.
The increased reports in 2014 corresponded with a nearly 30% increase in laundry pod sales.
The CPSC first began to voice concerns about children suffering laundry detergent poisoning from the small packs in 2012, when warnings were issued that urged caregivers to be aware of the risks and to store the products out of sight and reach of children.
In response to substantial criticism over the brightly colored Tide Pod packaging, Proctor & Gamble did agree to make several changes to their product packages in 2013. 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.
Packaging Standards for Laundry Packs
The main criticism voiced by Consumer Reports about the ASTM standards involve the potential failure of the outer-packaging deterrents. Consumer Reports is calling for requirements that each pod be individually wrapped to further reduce the risk accidental ingestion by children.
“Several varieties of single-use dishwasher detergent, including Finish Powerball Tabs, use this packaging method, so we know it’s feasible,” said Consumer Reports in a statement concerning the issue.
In response to the thousands of children affected by laundry detergent pod poisoning, the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety (PACS) Act 2015 was introduced earlier this year, to establish safety regulations surrounding single-use pods and to reduce the risk posed to children.
A number of laundry detergent pod injury lawsuits are currently being pursued against manufacturers of the products, alleging that inadequate steps were taken to ensure the safety of the products.