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72,947 Calls to Poison Control-- The Culprit? Liquid Laundry Pods

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Between 2012 through 2017, poison control centers received over 70,000 calls for help, an average of 40 calls per day about liquid laundry pod poisonings. Liquid laundry detergent packets, otherwise known as pods, “Help make washing clothes easier. But they carry a risk of poisoning and chemical burns, especially for young children.”

Image via Grist / Shutterstock

The Dangers of Liquid Laundry Pods

Liquid laundry pods are more toxic than traditional liquid or powder detergents, and they have been tied to the central nervous system and respiratory depression, eye injuries, lung inflammation, and death. Researchers say that pods are harmful even when not ingested, as “contents can squirt into an eye or leak onto a hand that subsequently touches an eye, resulting in a burn.”

Dr. Barbara Pena, research director and attending Emergency Physician at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, FL, says that parents need to treat detergent packets like medicine and keep them out of sight from children. She also called on manufacturers to make packaging harder to open. Pena said, “These canisters need to be childproof. That’s when you will see a reduction in poisonings.”

What’s Causing the Surge in Laundry Pod Poisonings?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published an article, “Safety Interventions and Liquid Laundry Detergent Packet Exposures” in the Journal of Pediatrics. In the study, researchers noted that The National Poison Data System found:

  • In the first six years (2012-2017) since the pods were marketed in the United States, 92% of all calls involved children under the age of 6.

  • Pods contain highly concentrated detergent wrapped in a thin, water-soluble membrane, which easily dissolves when in contact with saliva or moist skin.

  • Pod-related injuries include choking, poisoning, and chemical burns.

  • Since 2015, there was a 200% rise in pod ingestion by older youths and adults.

  • ⅔ of those exposed to laundry pods from 2012-2017 sustained minor injuries and no lasting effects.

  • A total of 8 people have died from laundry pod ingestion, including two children under the age of 2.

However, since 2015, there has been a decline in children’s exposure to laundry pods. According to Health Day, “poisonings fell just 18% between 2015 and 2017.” Manufacturers changed pod packaging to appear less colorful, as well as making containers more difficult to open.

Dr. Gary Smith from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH says, “The current voluntary standard, public awareness campaigns and product and packaging changes to date are good first steps, but the numbers are still unacceptably high-- we can do better.” Smith also suggests that those caring for young children and older adults use traditional laundry detergent to reduce the risk of accidental laundry pod ingestion.

Our Work in Childhood Preparedness and Prevention

The Institute For Childhood Preparedness works closely with early childhood providers to ensure the safety of all children. We recommend properly labeling all chemical products and storing them in a safe area, out of the reach of children. Try to use cleaning products and laundry pods during hours when children aren’t present. If your child accidentally ingests a liquid laundry pod, immediately call Poison Control (24 hours a day): 1-800-222-1222.

If you are interested in having us perform a site survey and risk assessment of your child care program to ensure that all chemical components are safely stored and out of sight, send us an email today: -- We are happy to come to your school or community.



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