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A new bill introduced in New York seeks to combat the rising number of children suffering laundry detergent poisoning from single-load packages or “pods”, which would require child-resistant packaging for all laundry pods sold in the state.
The legislation was introduced by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, a Queens-based Democrat, but will not be taken up until next year, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Poisoning from laundry detergent pods has become an increasing problem in recent years, as the pre-measured gel packs have become more popular nationwide. Thousands of injuries involving exposure to the highly concentrated detergent have been reported, usually involving young children or mentally handicapped adults, who place the brightly colored pods in their mouth.
The gel packs are sold in bright colors and are often packaged in a way that makes them appear similar to a candy or an infant teething toy. Given the concentrated nature of the laundry detergent, ingesting the liquid may cause a severe and potentially life-threatening poisoning injury.
In addition to child-resistant containers, the proposed New York state law would also require the laundry detergent packets to be designed and colored to make them less attractive to children. Each detergent pack would also need to be individually wrapped.
Similar legislation was filed earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety (PACS) Act 2015, but was shelved after the industry proposed new standard for laundry pods in September.
The new standards were announced by ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, which developed the new recommendations in response to safety concerns raised by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and various consumer advocacy groups.
Other industry groups, such as the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), have said they will back the standards. However, they are only voluntary guidelines and not legally required. Once the standards are approved, they will be published and the industry would work with the CPSC to determine when the changes will hit the market.
Concerns Over Laundry Pod Poisoning Accidents
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPC), as of October 31, 2015, there have been at least 10,497 reports of laundry packet exposure this year, which is a rate of more than 1,000 incidents per month.
Children who get the laundry detergent in their mouths may experience excessive vomiting, gasping, fatigue, breathing problems, and the effects can be fatal. There have also been reports of corneal abrasions when the detergent has made contact with the eyes, and skin irritation problems after exposure to the contents of the packets.
A number of laundry detergent pod poisoning lawsuits have been filed against various manufacturers of the products, alleging that inadequate steps were taken to ensure the safety of the products.
The AAPC advises parents to keep detergent containers closed and stored out of reach of children. They should follow all product instructions and call their local poison center at (800) 222-1222 if a child has come into contact with the contents of a laundry pod.