When detergent pods first became available, many families thought they were a convenient product for dishwashing and laundry. Grab a pod, pop it in and go. However, over time, warnings began to emerge that these colorful products proved too tempting to small children. The bright designs and little round shapes looked a lot like candy to toddlers and young children.
Even though the warnings have taken on a sense of urgency, a growing number of children are getting their hands and mouths on these products, with serious and sometimes fatal repercussions.
Among more than 62,000 calls made to emergency departments for poisoning from any kind of laundry or dishwashing detergent from 2013 to 2014, 17 children were in a coma, six stopped breathing, four had fluid in their lungs and difficulty breathing, and two died.
"Over 60 percent of these calls were due to laundry detergent packets," said lead researcher Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.
"That's about 30 children a day, or one child about every 45 minutes," he said. "Over the two years of the study, poisoning from detergent packets increased 17 percent, and in 2015 there was another 7 percent increase," Smith said.
Laundry detergent packets are more toxic than other forms of detergent and cause more hospitalizations and serious medical problems, Smith explained.
These packets look attractive to children, who could mistake them for food or candy, he said.
"All they have to do is put them in their mouth and bite down and the packet will burst, and once these toxic chemicals get down their throat the game's over," Smith added.
Given this growing problem, Smith said that parents of children under the age of 6 years should not have these products in the home. "They should use traditional detergents, which are far less toxic," he said.
Smith and colleagues analyzed data from calls made to U.S. poison control centers in 2013 and 2014 after unintentional exposures to laundry or dishwasher detergent involving children under the age of 6.
During those years, the number of poisonings increased for all types of detergents, but it was greatest for laundry detergent packets (17 percent), followed by dishwasher detergent packets (14 percent), the researchers found.
Smith noted that the liquid detergent were the most harmful to children.
Dr. Barbara Pena, research director in the emergency department at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, said companies have to do something to make these products safer.
People need to keep these products out of sight so children can't get into them, she said. "They should be treated just like medicine."
Ideally, parents of young children would not have them in the home, Pena said.
In response to the study, the American Cleaning Institute said Monday that manufacturers are working on a series of packaging and labeling steps that will be part of new international standards intended to reduce accidental exposure to the cleaning products.
The standards will include "secure package closures designed to challenge the typical strength, mental acuity and/or dexterity of a young child," the institute said in a news release.
There will also be first-aid instructions on the products' packages, the group said.
The report was published online in the journal Pediatrics.
It’s good that companies are researching safer packaging for their products, but ultimately, it’s up to the parents and caregivers of small children to make sure that their young child is safe from being poisoned by detergent pods.
Story source: Steve Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20160425/more-kids-being-poisoned-by-detergent-pods-study?print=true