Biting Into Laundry Pod Sends Louisiana Toddler to Hospital, As Detergent Packs Continue to Cause Problems

A two year old child in Louisiana was hospitalized last month after biting into a laundry detergent pod, which resulted in severe chemical burns and the need for treatment in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU), highlighting the continuing risks associated with Tide Pods and other similar products.

According to a recent report by WWL TV, the two-year old girl bit into a laundry pod on March 13. Her mother indicated that at first the toddler screamed and cried, but after the mother washed the concentrated laundry detergent off, her child suddenly became unresponsive.

The child was admitted to the ICU, where she was unable to eat or speak, and one eye was swollen shut. As a result of the injury, the child was hospitalized for several days and had to undergo a number of medical procedures, and was left with chemical burn damage to her right eye.

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Single-load Laundry Detergent Pod Poisoning May Result in Serious Injury for Children.

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Although health officials have been raising concerns about the safety of the single-load laundry detergent packets for years, the brightly colored pods continue to cause an alarming number of injuries and problems each year.

In the first month of 2018 alone, poison control centers nationwide received nearly 1,200 reports of children age five and younger being exposed to the contents of Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, Purex Ultra Packs or other single-load detergent packets, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Many young children or mentally handicapped adults mistake the laundry pods for candy or chew toys, and manufacturers have faced harsh criticism for marketing the products in transparent packaging or containers, which were similar to popular food items.

Side effects of laundry pod exposure can include excessive vomiting, wheezing, gasping, sleepiness, respiratory problems so severe that they may need to be placed on a ventilator, as well as corneal abrasions due to exposure to the eyes.

In addition to exposures among younger children, this year there was a spike in problems among teens between the ages of 13 and 19, with 39 cases of intentional laundry pod poisoning reported during the first 15 days of 2018 alone. That compares to 39 such cases among that group in all of 2016, and 53 such cases in all of 2017 among that age bracket.

The cause is believed to be the so-called “laundry packet challenge,” which started as a joke meant to be sarcastic and ironic, highlighting the absurdity of eating something that is clearly poisonous. However, it appears that a lot of teens do not understand the joke, which has spread around the internet in the form of images and videos of people sitting down to meals of Tide Pods and sexualized cartoon characters colored like popular laundry pod brands begging not to be eaten.

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 pursued 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.

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