A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP) and the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that 54 children were injured by laundry and dishwasher detergent pods.
Most of the injuries occurred to children under the age of two.
46% of the children were admitted to hospital and six were treated in intensive care units where they were placed on mechanical ventilators.
“This is not a rare event. We’ve likely identified just the tip of the iceberg in Canada,” said Dr. Jonathan Maguire, Medical Director of the CPSP and paediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
“To require intensive care management for something that is entirely preventable is a very big deal.”
The detergent pods have been available to the consumer since 2012, and since that time there has been a steady increase of accidental injuries and poisonings. More than 17,000 cases were reported in the United States in the past two years resulting in several hundred injuries.
In 2013, a 16-month-old boy from New Jersey bit into a laundry detergent pod and went into cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated, but died a few days later.
The pods are made with a saran wrap-like plastic casing, which not only dissolves when it gets wet but also bursts open when a child bites into it or squeezes it. One detergent pod is equivalent to one cup of laundry detergent.
When a detergent pod is ingested, a child can go into respiratory distress and vomit violently.
The concentrated detergent can also cause chemical burns to the skin, mouth, aesophagus and stomach, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, lung inflammation and loss of consciousness.
If a pod accidentally squirts into a child’s eye, it can cause corneal injury and a temporary loss of vision.
A new voluntary standard for detergent pods, developed by Health Canada and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is expected this summer.
Until preventative measures are applied to the design, concentration and packaging of detergent pod products, we recommend that all parents with pre-schoolers:
- switch back to using traditional, dry detergent or liquid detergent because it is much less concentrated and therefore less toxic
- keep laundry and dishwashing pods from your child’s reach and clearly out of sight
- Install safety locks on cabinets with cleaning detergents
- Inform your babysitter, caregiver, grandparents and other family members about the dangers of detergent pods
Laundry Detergent Pods - CHASA
Poisoning and Poison Control Centres across Canada – valuable information from CHASA
Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) – Liquid Laundry Packets – U.S.
Pediatrics Journal – U.S. - statistics for detergent pods