My wife, Sally, and I were watching a mystery movie when an advertisement for liquid laundry pods appeared on the screen. We were familiar with these products because we have used them when visiting with our children and grandchildren at their respective homes. However, these pods present potential toxic safety hazards to young children and adolescents as they contain concentrated detergent enveloped in a water-soluble membrane.1,2
In their article, Gaw et al.3 indicate that from 2012 to 2017 there were 72,947 single and polysubstance exposures to liquid laundry detergent packets reported in the National Poison Data System:
Most exposures involved children <6 years old (91.7%), involved a single substance (97.5%), or occurred at a residence (98.5%). Children 7 to 17 years old accounted for 3.2% (n = 2,314) of exposures, of which 11.5% (n = 266) were intentional exposures. The most common route of exposure was ingestion (73.3%) followed by multiple routes with ingestion (11.8%) and ocular exposure (10.7%).
Exposure to laundry detergent packets is associated with more serious medical outcomes than traditional detergent exposure, including central nervous system and respiratory depression, ocular injuries, pneumonitis, and death. Young children are often disproportionately represented among these exposures because of their exploratory behaviors and their attraction to the toy- and candy-like appearance of many detergent packets.3
The industry has responded with measures to decrease the “attractiveness” of the pods, and when children do handle them, childproofing measures have been instituted with a quantifiable decrease in ingestions from 2015 to 2017.3 However, despite these interventions, exposures continue to occur with an increase in children age 7 to 17 years.3 Unfortunately, some of those ingestions may have been intentional, resulting from a viral video that challenged teenagers to eat the pods.4 Additionally, increasing ocular injuries still occur when the contents of the pod squirt into children's eyes or leak on children's hands.5 As a response, industry has rolled out public service announcements emphasizing the danger of ingesting the pods.4
Pediatricians should be sure to communicate with parents and caregivers about the potential danger of these laundry packets, as well as how to safely store the pods in the home.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Poison control calls for exposure to liquid laundry detergent packets decreased slightly but remain hazardous. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Poison-Control-Calls-for-Exposure-to-Liquid-Laundry-Detergent-Packets-Decreased-Slightly-But-Remain-Hazardous.aspx. Accessed October 15, 2019.
- Searing L. The big number: 72,947 calls to poison control centers about liquid laundry pods. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/the-big-number-72947-calls-to-poison-control-centers-about-liquid-laundry-pods/2019/05/31/3fc0ccb6-8304-11e9-bce7-40b4105f7ca0_story.html. Accessed October 17, 2019.
- Gaw CE, Spiller HA, Casavant MJ, Chounthirath T, Smith GA. Safety interventions and liquid laundry detergent packet exposures. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20183117. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3117 [CrossRef]31160344
- Bever L. Teens are daring each other to eat Tide pods. We don't need to tell you that's a bad idea. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/01/13/teens-are-daring-each-other-to-eat-tide-pods-we-dont-need-to-tell-you-thats-a-bad-idea/?utm_term=.4c6b81def760. Accessed October 15, 2019.
- Haring RS, Sheffield ID, Frattaroli S. Detergent pod related eye injuries in preschool aged children. JAMA Ophthalmology. 2017;135(3):283–284. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.5694 [CrossRef]28152145