Brightly-colored detergent pods of different types are popping up in cleaning aisles across the nation. They’re convenient, but attract unwanted attention from children because they look so much like candy or toys. With colored swirls of this and that, wrapped in what appears to be heavy-duty cellophane, the squishy pods have caused thousands of children to bite or mouth them.
Here in Altus this week, a family had an unfortunate incident with their infant daughter biting through one of these laundry detergent pods. She began vomiting and the parent called for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The child’s condition is not known at this time.
Marketing began widely on various pods, especially Tide Pods, in March of this year. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that between Jan. 1, and Aug. 31, there were 2,950 exposures to children five years and younger in the U.S. from laundry detergent pods (aapcc.com). The California Poison Control System said that the average age of the child ingesting material from a pod is 23 months old. Some hospitals have received cases with children as old as six years.
The pods are designed to dissolve in liquid, and will melt on contact with enough saliva, even without biting or teething on the pod. If a child bites into a pod, the liquid may squirt out causing eye injuries or even blindness. Seattle Children’s Hospital has put out a warning that exposure to the liquid in pods may burn the skin as it runs everywhere. The liquid in an average pod is very concentrated, and equivalent to one cup of laundry detergent.
When ingested, the detergent in pods usually causes significant vomiting and nausea. Some children are aspirating the detergent while or despite vomiting it. By taking the detergent into the lungs during aspiration, the children may become drowsy as fluid develops in their lungs in response to the detergent. It may cause seizures and many children have required emergency short-term intubation, or insertion of breathing tubes, to be able to breathe (seattlechildrens.org).
“Laundry packs, like any cleaning product, must be kept out of the reach of children,” Proctor & Gamble’s spokesperson Paul Fox said. P&G has been working on a double latch lid for their Tide Pods containers. Keeping the cute little pods out of children’s hands may be easier said than done, since the container on the web site (tide.com) looks like a goldfish bowl filled with candy.
Many of the cases of pod poisoning occur from pods that fall off of shelves or out of the box or container. Because of the risk involved, some parents are deciding not to use pods until their children are past the “oral stage”, putting everything in their mouths. Grandparents and caregivers also have to be aware of this danger and keep these products up.
Jackson County EMS Director Shaun Cecil said regarding the pods, “The fact that most laundry detergents pods have some degree of an ethoxylated alcohol in them can cause some concern. That risk is possible oral burns and respiratory compromise (wheezing, stridor and failure) along with the triad of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most of the individuals who are ingesting these pods are young children at the age of their development where curiosity and exploration of their environment is paramount. Because of their size and weight, if the child actually ingests the contents of the pod then they can quickly reach toxic levels and have to be put on a ventilator.”
Cecil added, “What is the cure for this? Simple, as with any potentially toxic product, ensure that it is locked up or totally out of the reach of the child. And in defense possibly of parents who don’t understand the potential danger of ‘laundry soap’ they think it will just clean out the system, and the child will blow pretty bubbles.”
Cecil says that “Regardless of the package advice which is usually give a glass of milk, wash the eyes copiously with running water, the best response is to call 911 and get the child to the ER. In a small one to two-year old child, the symptoms can escalate more quickly than you realize.”
Other experts say, even if you just suspect a child has ingested anything from a pod, call the Poison Control Center immediately. Their nationwide number is 1-800-222-1222.