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Individually Wrapping Tide Pods Would Prevent Laundry Detergent Injuries: Lawmakers

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As New York lawmakers are pushing to make it harder for infants and toddlers to place Tide Pods and other single-load laundry detergent packets in their mouth, which continues to result in reports of laundry detergent poisoning and other injuries, Procter & Gamble is opposing proposed requirements that they individually wrap each pod and alter the multi-color design that is so enticing to young children.

The manufacturer sent a letter to New York State Senator Brad Hoylman on April 2, indicating that some requirements of a proposed bill (S100A/A4646A), which is designed to address Tide Pod poisoning problems that continue to impact thousands of children nationwide under the age of 5, will be too onerous or make little difference in preventing children from biting into the packets.

The communication comes from Procter & Gamble’s senior manager of state government relations, Mike Prentiss, in response to a letter sent in February by Hoylman and New York State Assemblymember Arvella Simotas, who called on the company to alter the appearance of Tide Pods to avoid both accidental poisonings and the “Tide Pod Challenge,” which has led to dozens of intentional poisonings and injuries among teens.

The bill calls for child-resistant wrappers on each of the liquid detergent packets, clear warning labels, and uniform colors to make the packets less visually appealing for young children and mentally disabled adults. The legislation also calls for each pod to be wrapped individually.

“As the parent of two young kids, I’m very concerned about the safety of liquid detergent packets, which look and smell like candy,” Hoylman said in the February 6 letter. “It makes no sense to me that with nearly 30 incidents a day, manufacturers still haven’t made these products safe. It’s way past time to fix these products or remove them altogether from store shelves.”

Procter & Gamble’s letter indicates that the pods already carry warning labels and child-resistant packaging, however, it indicated that the company did not support calls for individual wrapping of each pod or uniform, unappealing colors.

“P&G’s research team has studied individual wrapping extensively. Our studies have shown that individual wrapping would not be helpful in reducing accidents and may have significant unintended consequences,” Prentiss wrote. “Individual wrapping is commonly used for snacks, which could cause confusion for consumers or children who are unfamiliar with the detergent product. Further, difficult-to-open wrapping results in unintended consequences, as consumers often use scissors or their teeth.”

The letter also cites data from U.S. poison control centers, which it says found that color does not play a critical role in whether a child is exposed to the contents of a detergent pod. The company also noted that it currently offers its Tide Free and Gentle packets for families, which have an all-white color and have no scent.

Tide Pod Poisoning Concerns

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.

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 detergent 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.

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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