Detergent Pods Remain Significant Threat to Kids, Study Shows

Every 44 minutes poison centers receive a call related to the ingestion of laundry detergent pods. Learn why current safety standards may be failing and how you can keep your child safe.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published January 25, 2024
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A new report from the Center for Injury Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Central Ohio Poison Center reveals laundry detergent pods to still be a significant threat to kids, especially those under the age of 6.

The study, published in Clinical Toxicology, investigated trends in calls to poison centers across the country for exposures to liquid laundry detergent packets or pods. Despite the earlier outrage, swift introduction of voluntary safety standards, and modest decline in exposures, the data shows that incidences related to detergent pods remain high.

In the most recent three years of the study, U.S. poison centers received 36,279 calls related to detergent pods– an average of one call every 44 minutes. Most exposures involved children younger than 6 years (87 percent) and occurred at home (99 percent). Approximately six percent of exposures resulted in serious medical outcomes, and there were nine deaths, all among adults.

So why do cases continue to mount? The experts suggest that the 2015 Standard Safety Specification for Liquid Laundry Packets did not go far enough to prevent harm, and the March 2022 update did not substantially change its scope. The 2015 voluntary safety standard permits manufacturers to meet the requirement for child-resistant containers in six different ways rather than requiring them to conform to the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA), which has been shown to be highly effective in preventing child access to poisons.

“Requiring that all liquid laundry detergent packet packaging be PPPA-compliant would be an important next step in reducing child access to these products,” Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, co-author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s, said in a news release. “In addition, each laundry packet should be individually wrapped with child-resistant packaging, which would provide important layers of protection for this highly toxic product.”

Want to ensure your kids are safe from laundry detergent pods? Experts recommend that households with children younger than 6 years old use traditional laundry detergents instead of packets. “Many families don’t realize how toxic these highly concentrated laundry detergent packets can be,” said Gaw. “If you have young children or vulnerable adults in your home, using traditional laundry detergents is a safer alternative.”

Take simple steps to keep household hazards out of reach and stay up to date on the latest in baby proofing options to keep your child safe.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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