How Effective are Current Strategies in Reducing Laundry Detergent Poisoning?

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laundry detergent poisoning

New research examines the trends in injuries related to single-use laundry detergent packets, since the implementation of a 2015 product safety standard.

Single-use laundry detergent packets, such as Tide Pods, are popular in modern households due to their convenience, cost, and visual appeal. While these products may seem harmless, they are poisonous when ingested, causing vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and chemical burns in the digestive tract. When consumed in larger quantities, they can even cause foaming at the mouth, which can obstruct breathing.

These dangerous side effects are caused by two ingredients found in most single-use laundry detergent packets: surfactants and bleach. Surfactants are the components of soaps that remove grease and dirt from clothing, and bleach is an oxidizing agent that brightens clothing. Most adults would not consider eating these, however, young children could mistakenly ingest them because laundry detergent pods are often brightly coloured and visually appealing.

To prevent youths and the general population from consuming these toxic products, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) set up a new safety protocol in 2015 called the Standard Safety Specification for Liquid Laundry Packets. This standard suggested that manufacturers change their packaging to make the packets less accessible to children as well as put out public awareness campaigns against the dangers of laundry detergent poisoning. An American study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Central Ohio Poison Center investigated the trends in laundry detergent poisoning since the implementation of this safety standard.

The new policy was unfortunately not very effective, as the rate of calls to poison control centers regarding laundry detergent poisoning only declined by 18 percent in children younger than six years of age, while the number of calls increased for adults and older children.

The increase in laundry detergent toxicity in older youths could potentially be attributed to the popular yet irresponsible “Tide Pod Challenge” that took place in 2017, where many people posted videos of themselves eating individual laundry detergent packets on social media.

The failure of the safety standard could also be due to the fact that manufacturers did not have to conform to the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) of 1970. This would mean that laundry detergent pods would need to be individually packaged in child-resistant packaging, reducing the chance of young children accessing the pods.

More needs to be done to reduce the toxicity of individual laundry detergent packets. In the meantime, liquid laundry detergent is a great alternative to individual packets because it is often cheaper, less accessible and appealing to children, and less poisonous.

Written by Avery Bisbee

References:

Chelsea Ritschel in New York. (2018, January 19). This is what happens to your body when you eat a Tide pod. Retrieved June 4, 2019, from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/tide-pod-challenge-health-risk-advert-dangers-consume-swallow-eat-a8166666.html

New Study Finds Only a Modest Decrease in Exposure to Laundry Detergent Packets Among Young Children Following Adoption of Product Safety Standard; Increase Among Older Children and Adults. (2019, June 3). Retrieved June 4, 2019, from https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/newsroom/news-releases/2019/06/laundry-packets-industry-standard-study

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