Warning for laundry detergent capsules

According to the CNN article on Sept. 5, 2012, U.S. Poison hotlines have received 2,950 calls this year about exposure to laundry detergent capsules to children under 5. There were 734 calls in August alone.

A fairly new product to the market, they are gel packs of highly concentrated laundry detergent, like the Tide Pods. They are colorful and squishy, which makes them attractive to children. However, they contain strong alkaline cleaning agents and can be quite harmful.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning in May of this year, urging parents to store them out of reach of young children.

The CNN article reports that in New York, the poison hotline has received about 40 calls since April, mostly from hospitals. Some of the children experienced vomiting, wheezing and gasping and some had to be ventilated. Although there have been no deaths from these incidences, there has been a sharp uptick in the number of cases reported, both here in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom.

The Poison Control Center has stated that some children have squeezed the laundry detergent capsules and they burst into their eyes, causing severe irritation. Others have bit into the capsules and they burst in their mouths.

Here are some examples given in the warning by the Poison Control Centers:

  • Ten minutes after a 20-month-old swallowed a laundry detergent packet, the child developed vomiting, wheezing and gasping and then became unresponsive.
  • A 15-month-old who bit into a pack and swallowed a mouthful had extreme vomiting and, after arrival at a hospital, had to be put on a ventilator for airway protection.
  • A 17-month-old was put on a ventilator after biting into a packet and then rapidly developing drowsiness and vomiting.

Similar incidences have occurred in Scotland and other parts of the U.K.
The detergent manufacturers, as represented by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), are re-emphasizing the importance of keeping single unit dose laundry detergent packets out of the reach of children on their website along with a page devoted to safe laundry practices.

John Bisnar, of the Bisnar | Chase law firm, is sympathetic to the plight of the affected children. “Thank goodness there have been no deaths from these products, but the injuries described can be catastrophic for families. The laundry detergent manufacturers must take steps to make their products unattractive and unappetizing to children. Child safety is more important than a few more products sold. On the other hand, parents bear ultimate responsibility to keep all dangerous products well out of reach of children. Having raised three myself, I know that it is easier said than done. We can prevent harm by both manufactures doing what they can and parents doing what they can.”

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