The laundry detergent pod fad has grown over the past few years, and busy parents are drawn to the product for its convenient packaging, but what most people don’t know is that detergent pods are responsible for hundreds of child poisoning cases annually–and can even result in death.
According to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, over the last two years, approximately 17,000 children have reported to poison control centers for detergent pod consumption, 700 of which were seriously sickened, and one of which passed away as a result of the exposure.
“Something about these pods makes them highly toxic. They pose a very serious poisoning threat to kids,” said report co-author Dr. Gary Smith, to Health Day News. “Parents need to make an informed decision if they bring these products into their homes,” Smith added. “We’re recommending that they not use these pods if they have young children in the home.”
Children, specifically those under the age of two, use their mouths as a way to explore the world around them. According to the Baby Centre, this is because the mouth is a child’s first mode of touch; it is what they can use before they have developed the motor function to use their hands properly. If a child is curious about something, it is natural for them to stick it in their mouth, and the more appealing the item is visually and texturally, the more likely they are to want to eat it.
Thus is the case with detergent pods. Most are squishy in texture and brightly colored, immediately grabbing at the senses of young children. What’s more, older children who have learned that candies are brightly colored may mistake the pods for something they can eat. The end result is very serious and potentially life-threatening. Among the detergent pod poisoning cases reported, 144 children had eye injuries, 30 went into comas and 12 had seizures.
Experts who handle similar cases say they are awaiting reports on what makes the detergent pods so dangerous; every year children also ingest similar products for dishwashers yet the results are not nearly as severe.
The mystery has been ongoing since 2012 when reports of detergent pod poisoning first hit the media. In a report from ABC News at the time, toxicologists were baffled by how the pods created such dangerous symptoms when regular liquid detergent–the same contained in the pods–barely causes stomach upset when ingested.
“[Our] laundry detergent products are all enzyme-free and approved by the EPA for their Design for the Environment program which recognizes safer chemistry, Detergent company, Dropps, said in a 2012 statement. We encourage consumers to keep the products out of the reach of children as with any household chemical.