When Cleaning Products Look like Candy: 4 Simple Steps on How to Keep Kids Safe Around Laundry Room Dangers

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iStock_000018877478SmallMadeleine Perez has a simple reason for banning laundry detergent pods from her home. The Los Angeles mom said that in the span of a year, two of her friends had to rush their toddlers to the emergency room after the children managed to grab and eat the pods, which are small, single-use packets of concentrated detergent.

Both children were treated and have since recovered, but Perez said the two separate incidents were more than enough to keep her away from pods forever.

“It’s just so scary to me and it’s not worth it,” she said.

When introduced to the U.S. market in 2012, laundry detergent pods featured “colorful, candy-like designs” that may have made them attractive to young children, according to a new study published in the medical journal “Pediatrics.” Reviewing cases reported to the National Poison Data System, researchers found that more than 17,000 children under age 6 were exposed to laundry detergent pods, with most of the exposures taking the form of ingestion by children younger than age 3.

More than one in three children received some sort of medical care after pod exposure, with many suffering vomiting and coughing, or eye irritation. In a handful of cases, children lapsed into comas, suffered seizures or fell victim to other serious conditions. In two cases of reported pod exposure, the children died.

The detergent pod manufacturers themselves warn that the packets can quickly dissolve when they come into contact with wet hands or saliva.

“This stuff is really an accident waiting to happen,” said Dr. Steven Marcus, the executive and medical director of New Jersey Poison Information & Education System. “The majority of exposures are not going to cause a problem, but you don’t want your child to be one of those that gets into trouble from it.”

While pod manufacturers have responded to calls to change their products’ packaging to make it less appealing and accessible to children, poison prevention experts like Marcus say there are simple steps parents can take to keep kids safe:

4 Ways to Keep Kids Safe Around Laundry Room Dangers

  • Stick to traditional detergents. Laundry detergent pods are convenient, but if you have young children, you may be better off living without them, Marcus pointed out. Powdered detergents are difficult to ingest in dangerous quantities and liquid detergents don’t offer the same allure to children as packets that are easy to squish and then bite.
  • Keep laundry detergent pods out of reach of children. It’s obvious advice, but it can’t be stressed enough. Keep them locked up and in a container — and keep the original container as far away from the kids as possible.
  • Don’t take out laundry pods until the very moment you’re ready to use them. Once you’ve taken one out, throw it into the washing machine immediately so you’re not leaving it accessible to the child.
  • Know the number for the Poison Help Line. IN CASE OF POD EXPOSURE call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 and tell the poison specialist what happened.

Note: Despite conventional wisdom on poisoning, Marcus urges parents not to attempt to induce vomiting in children with remedies like charcoal or ipecac. “We think that the major problem with this stuff is that when you vomit, it ends up coming back up and it goes back into your lungs,” he said.

For more information, check out:

Study: Pediatric Exposure to Laundry Detergent Pods 

American Association of Poison Control Centers

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission On Safety

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