August 16, 2013 – We knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. There were too many incidences - too many close calls and not enough people in advisory or regulatory positions paying heed.
Detergent pods have officially received their first fatal statistic. Michael Williams, a seven-month-old boy from Kissimmee, Florida was taken from a shelter for abused women to the hospital Friday afternoon and pronounced dead about one hour after ingesting a pod from an 'All Laundry Detergent's Mighty Pac' manufactured by The Sun Products Corporation.
Despite warnings on the detergent pod packaging, thousands upon thousands of children in North America have suffered from a rapid onset of significant symptoms from profuse vomiting and severe abdominal pain to loss of consciousness and placed on ventilators in intensive care units.
Poison Control Centres issued an alert as early as March 2012 across the United States about detergent companies that have a new laundry product that comes in small pods sold under many brand names including Tide Pods, All Mighty Pacs, and Purex Ultra Packs. Infants and children are attracted to the candy-coloured, squeezable pods and they can hold them quite easily in their tiny hands. And what do infants and children do with anything they hold in their hands? You guessed it. They put it in their mouth. It's their natural disposition.
One would assume that a detergent pod would have a strong, soapy smell and biting into one would taste acrid, if not absolutely awful, and therefore, act as a deterrent to an infant, but there's something rather different about these pods in that children continue to ingest them. I'm sure every parent has experienced their child refusing to eat peas, pureed carrots, string beans or squash and how they would spit out the offensive food or cry really loud informing you that in no uncertain terms do they want to taste this food again. Understanding this fact, it makes one wonder why seven-month-old Michael Williams continued to eat a second pod just before he died.
In 2012, Poison Control Centres across Canada experienced an upsurge of infants and children who ingested detergent pods and doctors remain extremely concerned because the symptoms they suffer are much more severe than typical laundry poisoning. As of July 2013, the American Association of Poison Control Centers stated that over 5,750 infants and children under the age of five have ingested laundry pods.
Despite the consistent, written warning on the redesigned package, the double-latch child resistant lid, the overwhelming amount of media attention about this emerging public health concern, and regardless of the continued, aggressive efforts to educate people about the proper use and storage of these detergent pods - children are still falling ill in increasing numbers after ingesting the detergent pods.
As of July 2013, the American Association of Poison Control Centers stated that over 5,750 infants and children under the age of five have ingested laundry pods.
Health Canada is working with the Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres (CAPCC) to gather information on incidents that 'may have been' reported to provincial poison control centres and they are currently evaluating all available data with respect to unit-dose detergent pods. Detergent pods are the subject of an on-going review by Health Canada to determine compliance with applicable regulations.
The abovementioned neatly formed, well-worded paragraph with the operative words 'may have been reported' loosely implies that Health Canada and the CAPCC are on top of this life-threatening hazardous product, and that they understand an immediate proactive measure is required before we incur more injuries and fatalities but the facts below prove otherwise.
The Ontario and Manitoba Poison Centres have received 215 reports of detergent pod ingestions and exposures in 2013. Health Canada has received 28 reports of detergent pod ingestions and exposures since May 17, 2012. The numbers just don't add up and the time values are even more disparaging.
Health Canada states that in 2012 they received:
- 10 reports of detergent pod ingestion
- 9 of the victims sought treatment in a hospital
- 4 victims were under the age of 3
- The remaining 6 reports did not include the age of the victim
Health Canada states that in 2013 (up to July 27, 2013) they received:
- 18 reports of detergent pod ingestion
- All of the victims sought treatment in the hospital
- 16 victims were under the age of 4
- 1 victim was over the age of 65
- 1 report did not include the age of the victim
Margaret Thompson, Medical Director for the Ontario and Manitoba Poison Centres in Toronto was not able to provide statistical data to some of my questions on detergent pod ingestions but she did state that the centre received reports of detergent pods bursting in adults' faces causing oral and eye injuries.
According to the Ontario and Manitoba Poison Centres the date of the first detergent pod ingestion was reported on March 19, 2012. According to Health Canada the date of the first detergent pod ingestion reported in Canada was May 17, 2012. Again, a discrepancy in time value is evident.
On August 28th, 2013, Health Canada states, "Liquid laundry detergent pods are subject to the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001 (CCCR, 2001) issued under the authority of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA). The CCCR, 2001 regulates these products on the basis of the scientifically assessed hazards that they pose to users, such as how corrosive or toxic the product is. These regulations address short-term exposures that result from normal use of the product. Scientific data is used by industry to identify the applicable hazards and their possible routes of exposure. Regulated products must display hazard symbols, warning statements, instructions, a list of hazardous ingredients, and first-aid treatment measures, in both official languages."
Health Canada states, "To date, liquid laundry detergent pod products examined by Health Canada have been compliant with the CCCR, 2001."
"We will not hesitate to use our powers under the 'Canada Consumer Product Safety Act' to have dangerous products removed from store shelves."
Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health
In April 2013, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, announced to industry that the Canadian Government would take action to remove dangerous magnet sets from the marketplace. "We will not hesitate to use our powers under the 'Canada Consumer Product Safety Act' to have dangerous products removed from store shelves," said Minister Aglukkaq.
In April 2013, Health Canada stated, "In Canada, consumer chemicals (such as household cleaners or automotive products) fall under the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001 (CCCR, 2001) issued under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and must meet the requirements of the Regulations. Consumer chemical products which do not meet these regulatory requirements cannot be imported into, advertised or sold in Canada. Should it be determined that additional action is required to enhance the safety of these products, Health Canada will advise Canadians." This excerpt was taken from Government of Canada – Healthy Canadians.
The Harper Government announced the first-ever mandatory recall and stop sale for a consumer product that causes severe, life-threatening complications within hours of ingestion. The North American Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition reported 480 ingestion cases where children required the removal of portions of their bowels, which can cause long-term complications. There have also been hundreds of cases in the United States and Australia, where children had emergency surgery to remove the magnets from their intestines.
"This first mandatory recall sends a strong message to industry that our Government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians," said Minister Aglukkaq.
It is more than evidentiary that the Research & Development and marketing departments within the detergent industry have dropped the ball on this one big time. Even after thousands of ingestion cases and now one death, I wonder what it will take to have this detergent pod labelled as a 'dangerous product' and removed from the store shelves. Back to the drawing board fellas. It's detergent you are manufacturing and marketing – it's not candy and it's not a toy!
Poison Control Centres in Canada and the United States continue to urge all parents and caregivers to make sure laundry detergent pods are locked up and out of reach from children. Dishwasher detergent packs pose an equal risk so please exercise the same caution.
Keep the number of your local Poison Control Centre number near your telephone and in the event that your child has ingested any consumer product, contact your regional Poison Control Centre. If your province or territory does not have a poison control centre, dial 911.
Health Canada would like to remind Canadians report any health or safety incidents related to the use of a consumer product or cosmetic. An easy-to-use incident report form is now available on the Department's website.
Mail: Incident Report - Consumer Product Safety Directorate
Health Canada, 123 Slater Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A 0K9
Watch over your children.
Do not let them become another statistic.