Those colourful detergent pods that contain highly concentrated cleaners inside must be handled with caution because they look a lot like candy and this is causing big problems according to a new study. Kids are eating them.

A new study published in the May 2016 edition of Pediatrics found U.S. poison control centres received 62,254 calls in 2013 and 2014 for children under six years old who had been exposed to laundry and dishwasher detergent packets which represents a 17 per cent increase in unintentional exposure to laundry detergent pods and a 14 per cent increase in exposure to dishwasher detergent packets.  This is serious say officials because pods are far more dangerous than liquid or granular detergent and contain different ingredients that are far more concentrated than traditional detergent.

The study found that laundry detergent packets containing liquid detergent were the most harmful to children who ingested them, resulting in 17 cases of coma, six cases of respiratory arrest, four cases of pulmonary edema and two cases of cardiac arrest.

During the study period, there were 2 deaths linked to laundry detergent packets exposure.


Two-year-olds accounted for 30.3 per cent of laundry detergent exposures and 16.3 per cent of dishwasher detergent exposures.

The study information supports the concerns of health officials who have warned about the pods since they hit the shelves in 2012 and manufacturers have responded by changing the packaging of the pods to make them less attractive to children but the study’s co-author Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center says regardless of the changes “we still literally see 10,000 (in hospital) a year.”

In 2015, the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program studied 54 cases of exposure to laundry detergent packets that were reported to emergency departments since 2012. Out of the 54 cases, 46 per cent of patients were admitted to hospital and six were treated in intensive care units.

In 2012 Health Canada warned  about the pods.  It says this on their website:

Health Canada is aware of incidents of children ingesting miniature laundry detergent packs. The lightweight, colourful single use detergent plastic packets dissolve in water. These brightly coloured packets with their squishy texture are attractive to children.

Laundry detergents are powerful cleaning products that may contain ingredients which can lead to harmful health effects upon ingestion. Children who swallow the detergent packs may experience a variety of serious symptoms including severe abdominal pain, vomiting, or breathing difficulty.


Recommendation from the study? Use liquid laundry or dishwasher detergency instead of the pods and if you do have these in your home, lock them up. If you fear your child has ingested a pod, call  a Poison Control Centre or your health care provider right away. You can find phone numbers for the Poison Control Centre nearest you at the front of your local telephone book or by searching Poison Control Centre + (your province or territory) on the Internet.

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