In the course of 2013 and 2014, Poison Control centers across the U.S. 62, 254 reports about children’s exposure to laundry and dishwasher detergents, found a new study in Pediatrics. While keeping dishes and clothes clean certainly helps provide safe and healthy environments for children, the type of detergent products we use may pose serious – even life-threatening – risks to younger children in particular.
Tara goes into a more in-depth analysis of the study at Forbes, but here are the important basics. First, all of the tracked reports of detergent exposure were in children under age 6, and these reports are increasing, especially when it comes to the pod or packet form of both laundry and dishwashing detergents. In fact, the most serious injuries, including two deaths, came from kids’ exposure to laundry detergent pods.
Laundry detergent pods made up the most serious injuries, even over dishwasher packets. The vast majority of children who needed to be intubated after detergent exposure – 104 of 117 children – had swallowed detergent from laundry pods. Clinical side effects, hospitalizations, and serious medical outcomes, such as coma or stopped breathing, were also all higher for laundry detergent packets than for any other detergents.
Most of the detergent exposures – 85% in this study – happened when children ingested it. The manufacturers of laundry detergent packets have agreed to voluntary safety standards, but the authors of the study argue that additional standards or changes to design may need necessary if exposures and serious medical problems keep occurring.
The problem isn’t as simple as putting the laundry pods in a locked cabinet or out of reach. As this Onion piece humorously conveys, children are often much more determined to get ahold of – and to eat – dishwasher and laundry detergent pods because they look so much like gummy candy or other types of sugary treats. That extra bit of motivation to find a detergent pod and pop it in their mouths means simply having the laundry detergent pods in a house with little children at all poses serious risks, despite extensive childproofing, according to the authors. If your child is exposed to detergents or any other household poison, the Poison Control number is 1-800-222-1222.