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Nearly 7,000 Child Laundry Pod Poisoning Cases So Far This Year, Poison Centers Report

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Despite efforts in recent years to improve the safety of single-load laundry pods, poison control centers have received nearly 7,000 reports of problems involving exposure to laundry detergent so far this year among children ages five and younger. 

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) announced this month that poison control centers received 6,843 reports laundry detergent exposure as of the end of July, each involving children under the age of five years old who may have been harmed by the highly concentrated chemicals.

The exposure reports range from a variety causes, including ingestions, absorptions, and poisonings, among various other related injuries.

Single-load laundry detergent pods have become increasingly popular in households across the United States. The growth in popularity has also resulted in increased numbers of laundry pod child poisoning and exposures incidents, resulting in thousands of emergency room visits each year due to child ingestion.

In 2015, the AAPCC recorded 12,594 detergent pod exposure reports from consumers whose children ingested, inhaled, absorbed by the skin or eyes, or were poisoned. At the time, this was the highest number ever recorded by the AAPCC following 2014 which recorded 11,714 and 2013 recording 10,395 incidents.

The AAPCC’s recent update has indicated the child exposure incidents are occurring at a rate of nearly 1,000 exposures per month. The agency has already received 6,843 exposure reports from January 1 through July 31.

The single use detergent pods are often brightly colored and in clear, opaque plastic coatings, which can confuse children or mentally handicapped individuals into thinking they are candy or toys, which they then place in their mouths or attempt to eat.

Ingestion and exposures to the highly concentrated detergent packs may result in serious and potentially fatal outcomes for children. Children who swallow detergents can suffer a wide range of injuries varying from mild stomach irritation, excessive vomiting, wheezing, gasping, fatigue, breathing problems requiring ventilator assistance, and corneal abrasions if it gets into their eyes.

Many agency and consumer advocacy groups, such as Consumer Reports, have recommended the public discontinue the use of laundry detergent pods, and store bottled detergent with safety caps high up where children cannot access them.

In September 2015, ASTM International proposed new industry standards for laundry pods, including changes to make the packaging less attractive to young children, make 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.

The new standards were announced by ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, which developed the new standards in response to safety concerns raised by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and various consumer advocacy groups.

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.

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.

The AAPCC recommends for parents and caregivers to always follow safety-usage instructions on detergent labels and to always keep detergents closed, sealed, and stored up high so children cannot reach them.

In the event a child or 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.

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