Laundry detergent pods are sending hundreds of small children to the hospital every year; better to use traditional detergent

Laundry detergent pods, a convenience product that can be tossed into washing machines without having to measure out a liquid or powder, caused more than 700 children to be hospitalized in 2012-2013, with one confirmed death, according to a new study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Photo: University of Virginia Health System

The study, published online in the journal Pediatrics, evaluated U.S. poison-control data from 2012 to 2013 and found 17,230 reports of children younger than six who had been injured from the laundry pods. That is nearly one child every hour, says the news release.

Two-thirds of the cases were one- and two year-olds, with most of the exposures reported due to ingestion.

Because the pods are usually brightly colored, young children, who naturally explore their environments orally, put them in their mouths. The water-soluble covering on the pods is easily penetrated, allowing the concentrated detergent to be ingested.

“Laundry detergent pods are small, colorful, and may look like candy or juice to a young child,” Marcel J. Casavant, co-author of the study, said in the release. “It can take just a few seconds for children to grab them, break them open, and swallow the toxic chemicals they contain, or get the chemicals in their eyes.”

While some manufacturers of laundry detergent pods have changed packaging to make pods less attractive to children, many have not.

“It is not clear that any laundry detergent pods currently available are truly child resistant; a national safety standard is needed to make sure that all pod makers adopt safer packaging and labeling,” said Gary Smith, the study’s senior author. “Parents of young children should use traditional detergent instead of detergent pods.”

Parents and child caregivers can help children stay safe by following these tips:

  • Use traditional laundry detergent, it is less toxic than the pods.
  • Store laundry detergent pods up, away and out of sight – preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Close laundry detergent pod packages or containers and put away immediately after use.
  • Put the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.
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