Laundry Pods Packed with Poison

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Laundry Pods Packed with Poison, Sending More Kids to the ER

Parents who opt for the convenience of single-use laundry pods should know this: the pretty-colored packets are also attracting toddlers, sending a growing number to the ER for serious, sometimes life-threatening poisonings.

A new study, released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, show that of all the types of detergents, concentrated laundry detergent packets are the most dangerous to young children.

The study looked at data from calls made to the National Poison Control Center from 2013 to 2014. During that time, calls for laundry pod poisonings went up by 17 percent.

The majority of these calls were for children under three.

In fact, when little hands got hold of laundry pods, the study showed serious injuries including:

  • 17 cases of coma
  • Six cases of respiratory arrest
  • Four cases of fluid in the lungs
  • Two cases of cardiac arrest

Children who got into dish washing detergent pods suffered less serious injuries than those who ingested laundry pods.

When Accidents Happen

Emergency department doctors at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas say they too have noticed an increase in these cases.

“It’s serious when you talk about the organs it affects,” said Sujit Iyer, MD, assistant medical director at Dell Children’s ER. “The mouth, the lungs, the heart, the brain — all from these little pods.”

What makes the pods so dangerous is the concentration of the contents.

“Most of the time when kids get into household cleaners, they get exposed to a small amount and then quickly spit it out,” Iyer said. “But in this case, a super-concentrated amount explodes in their mouth.”

Eric Higginbotham, MD, medical director of the emergency department at Dell Children’s agrees. “Even small amounts of ingesting them orally and breathing them can cause more serious side effects than other things that kids get into.”

Both doctors say that when accidents happen, it’s important to seek care immediately at a Pediatric Level I Trauma Center.

“You need all the specialists involved early for injuries these. With burns in the esophagus, gastrointestinal experts need to get in there quickly and inspect the amount of damage,” Higginbotham said.

“Once the injuries happen, there’s no anecdote or magical medication that reverses the damage. With detox injuries like this, things tend to get worse before they get better so you just have to avoid it, that’s the key,” Higginbotham said.

Manufacturers Making Changes

Makers of these laundry pods have recently taken steps to educate consumers. Proctor and Gamble, maker of Tide and Gain, has started safety campaigns and made packaging more difficult for children to open.

Tips to Keep Kids Safe

  • Keep items high and secure.
  • Use multiple layers of protection. For example, store items in a hard to open container which is also placed out of reach and locked.
  • Consider using liquid detergents instead of pods.
  • Keep the number for Poison Control handy, 1-800-222-1222.

“It’s a lot harder to open a huge jug of detergent. A kid can’t swallow a whole gallon of dish soap or ingest the amount that’s in the pods,” said Iyer, a father of two young children. “We don’t even have it in the house.”

Dell Children’s is Central Texas’ only Pediatric Level I Trauma Center.

Seton is a member of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health care system.