Laundry pods pose serious harm to young children, study finds

Laundry packetBright colors and interesting shapes make some cleaners appealing to children. But these products can be deadly if swallowed.

A recent study, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, says childhood exposure to the brightly colored packets jumped 17 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Poison Data System for children under age 6 and found 62,254 reported pediatric exposures to dishwasher or laundry detergents, of which over 21,00 (35.4 percent) were laundry detergent packets and approximately 15,000 (24.2 percent) were dishwasher detergent packets.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a laundry pods soft and colorful exterior can easily be mistaken by a child as candy, toys, or a teething product and once mixed with saliva, the packets dissolve quickly and release the highly concentrated toxic liquid. If a child ingests a highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry packets, she will experience excessive vomiting, wheezing, gasping, sleepiness and difficulties breathing.

Dr. Lois Lee,  of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department Injury Prevention Program, shares suggestions for preventing accidental poisoning.


Tips to secure household cleaning products

Cleaning products


Despite the wealth of information available about the dangers of household cleaners, they’re still some of the worst offenders for poisoning and internal damage done to young children. Although it may seem like common sense to keep cleaning products, like laundry pods, out of reach of small hands, all too often I see kids in Boston Children’s Emergency Department after accidentally drinking some type of cleaning solution. Thankfully many of the products aren’t overly toxic, or too little is consumed to cause real damage, but you never know when a child could get into something that is potentially lethal if swallowed.

Under lock and key

If you have kids, it’s imperative that cleaning products are either in locked cabinets or stored in places out of reach of children, like on a high shelf. Cabinet locks can be purchased relatively cheaply at a variety of retailers, from department stores to toy stores. Some parents assume when a product advertises the virtues of its childproof caps, it’s safe to leave lying around. The definition of “childproof” varies greatly on a child’s dexterity and desire to get at whatever is inside the container so it’s impossible for any company to guarantee a child can’t open it. Blind faith in a chemical company’s concept of ‘secure’ probably isn’t worth the risk.

Safety first

When you’re cleaning the house and have cleaners and solutions out for easy access, make sure to keep your smaller children in a secure area like a playpen or another room. And because you never know when he may ‘toddle’ his way into your cleaning area unannounced, always keep the cleaning solutions you’re using up on a shelf or countertop where it’s off limits to kids.

Don’t reuse drinking containers to house dangerous chemicals

I fully support the eco-consciousness sweeping the globe, but recycling old drinking containers to hold any type of chemical liquid is extremely dangerous. Old soda bottles or gallon milk jugs may seem like an eco-friendly way to store paint, varnish or a cleaning solution, but I’ve seen children come to the ED for poisoning after a well-meaning adult poured them a drink from a container containing a solution they thought was water. If you’re interested in recycling drinking containers, brainstorm some ideas for arts and crafts made from recyclables and make them with the kids as family project.

When to seek medical attention

Lois Lee, MD, MPH
Lois Lee, MD, MPH

If your child should drink some type of cleaning solution you should immediately call the National Poison Center Hotline (1-800-222-1222). The experts on the phone can guide you through the next steps for home treatment or decide if a trip to the emergency department is in order.  If you do take your child to the hospital it’s always a good idea to bring the swallowed cleaning solution with you, especially if the bottle lists its ingredients, so the medical staff knows what ingredients may have been ingested.

Giving health care providers any and all information about the potentially dangerous liquid your child drank is helpful, but it’s best to avoid the situation all together by taking precautionary steps. Keeping cleaners out of sight and reach at all times from your little ones helps better ensure they don’t ‘toddle’ themselves into harm’s way.