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The number of children poisoned by laundry detergent pods is increasing for the first time since 2015, according to data from poison centers across the U.S.
Children’s detergent pod poisonings were at the forefront of media attention for several years ago, amid thousands of reports involving children experienced severe side effects after ingesting single-load packs.
In response to the problems, regulators and manufacturers enacted measures to reduce the risk of young children or disabled adults placing the brightly colored gel pods in their mouths. This helped reduce the number of reports involving poisoning from the concentrated laundry detergent. However, after several years of declines, new data from the America Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) suggests that childhood laundry detergent poisonings appear to be on the rise again.
Reports of exposure to laundry detergent packs increased 6% during the first part of 2019, compared to data from 2018. Nearly 6,000 poison calls involving children and detergent pods were received in the first seven months of 2019.
If the trend continues, the number of exposures in 2019 will exceed last year’s total, which will mark the first time the number of poisoning cases will exceed the prior year since 2015.
Emergency room visits involving detergent pods tripled from 2011 to 2013, mostly involving children under the age of 6. In 2012, Tide Pods launched in the U.S. and the number of children experiencing poisonings from detergent pods continued to increase.
The laundry detergent packs are small, individually wrapped and brightly colored packets of potent detergent. To a young child, the pods may resemble candy, making them especially appealing. If a child bites into the pack, ingesting the concentrated laundry detergent can cause vomiting, seizures, respiratory distress, and changes to mental status. Ingestion of a detergent pod by one senior citizen with dementia resulted in death.
New Safety Measures Reduced Laundry Pod Injuries
Following efforts to implement safety measures designed to prevent children from gaining access to the attractive brightly colored product, such as child proof containers, the number of poisoning reports dropped by 16% from 2016 to 2017, and then again by 13% from 2017 to 2018.
Yet the new data indicates calls to poison control centers involving children’s exposures to detergent pods are on the rise again. This is the first time the number of exposures has increased year-over-year since 2016.
The increase suggests the safety efforts by manufacturers and the public attention to the issue has reached its limit of effectiveness, experts say. Now, advocates call on manufacturers to take additional steps, such as individual pod wrapping, changing the appearance and coloring, or using coatings with a bitter flavor to prevent children from chewing on the pods.
However, manufacturers, like Procter & Gamble, who control nearly 80% of the market with Tide and Gain, cite studies indicating the appearance doesn’t play a role. Other investigations suggest the contrary.
Laundry pod sales continue to increase, jumping from $143 million to $147 million in the past year with similar increases of up to 17% in prior years. A booming detergent pod market makes it even more difficult to find solutions to better protect children.
If a child is exposed to laundry detergent, call the local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately and seek emergency medical attention at a hospital.