They are brightly colored, cleverly packaged and look just like a sweet treat to a toddler. But laundry pods are anything but.
A new study from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that laundry detergent packets, or “pods,” are more dangerous than other types of detergent.
Of more than 62,000 calls made to poison control centers about laundry or dishwasher detergent, laundry pods were responsible for 60 percent of calls. Nationwide, poison control centers received more than 30 calls per day about children who had been exposed to detergent pods — about one call every 45 minutes. Nearly half of those calling needed medical treatment or evaluation.
The study found this type of detergent can cause the most severe complications — trouble breathing, heart problems, coma and even death.
Calls to the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital about laundry pods also increased over the same time period.
In Kentucky, more than one in three calls about pods between 2013 and 2015 were for children under age 3. Because the majority of calls about pods nationwide also are for children under 3, researchers urge families with young children to use other types of laundry detergent.
“These packets are colorful and young kids can mistake them for candy,” said Maria Chapman, health educator for the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center.
Recently, Consumer Reports decided to no longer recommend laundry pods due to the health hazard to children.
The American Cleaning Institute has said that manufacturers of pods are looking at improving safety through packaging changes and possibly even adding a bitter taste to the detergent packaging to keep children from wanting to eat the pods.
Until then, and even once those changes are made, detergent pods should be kept out of children’s reach and sight.
“Laundry rooms often are not a key area of concern for parents when it comes to poison dangers, but this shows that they should be,” Chapman said. “Any cleaning products need to be out of sight and out of reach of children.
“Parents also need to remember that cabinet locks and latches are not childproof — they are child-resistant, meaning they only slow kids down.”
If you suspect your child has ingested a harmful substance or you have other concerns about potential poisoning, call the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. Calls are free and answered by nationally certified toxicology professionals trained to assess the situation and symptoms and recommend appropriate care.