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Laundry Detergent Pods Present Poisoning Risk to Children, Study Shows

Nov 17, 2014

Findings published in the journal Pediatrics show that a growing number of children are being exposed to 'laundry detergent pods'. Researchers at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio found that from 2012 through 2013, 17,230 calls were placed to the U.S. poison control center for children under the age of 6 swallowing, inhaling or being exposed to chemicals in the pods. Children who were 1 and 2 years old comprised almost two-thirds of the cases. Exposure to laundry detergent pods resulted in the hospitalization of 769 children.

Dr. Marcel J. Casavant is chief of toxicology of Nationwide Children's Hospital, medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center and a co-author of the study. He told that the packaging of the colorful pods is appealing to children. “If I were a kid, I’d like to pick it up and play with it … it looks like it was made for young children to have fun with,” he told

He attributed the pods' dangers to both the packaging and formulation. “[When] a child gets into powders or liquids, they might want to take a taste of it, [and] get some accidentally on their fingers, and decide to clean their finger by popping it in their mouth,” he said to “Usually it’s a very, very, very small dose. In our experience, a child gets into a pod, gets the full dose, [and] can’t control how much gets into the mouth.”

According to the study, consuming laundry pods caused vomiting in 48 percent of cases, coughing and choking in 13 percent, eye pain or irritation in 11 percent, drowsiness or lethargy in 7 percent, mouth pain, burning, difficulty breathing and windpipe injuries. Traditional liquids and powders can cause vomiting as well, but Casavant noted that this usually occurs once or twice before subsiding. The side effects of ingesting pods are substantially worse. He stated that a handful of children fell into a coma and a number of others had to be admitted into intensive care and intubated.

In some cases, children showed a “significant altered mental state” and had difficulty staying awake. The researchers found that some children were on breathing machines for several days. One child died after consuming a pod. “Compared to a lot of other injuries that poison control deals with, many of these are severe and certainly long lasting,” said Casavant.

Casavant advises parents against using the laundry pods to prevent accidental exposure. He recommends that if you do have them, keep them where kids cannot see or reach the pods. He cautions, however, that laundry poisoning happens most often while the product is being used. “Part of safe storage is to remember it’s a very, very dangerous time when you get the product out of storage and are starting to use it,” he said to

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