Toddler and Preschool  |  Infants  |  Cleaning products

Laundry Detergent Pods and Children Keep Individual Laundry Detergent Packets Away from Children

The Bottom Line

Laundry pods are a huge new category of cleaning product. For unknown reasons, this type of laundry liquid has caused dangerous injury to children and at least one death. Effects of biting into a laundry pod include coughing, choking, trouble breathing, coma, and possibly death. The detergent also can irritate the skin and burn the eyes.

The Full Story

The newest way to wash clothes is by dropping a "pod" of detergent into the washing machine. The detergent is pre-measured. The pods are easy to handle. There are no spills. The coating of the pod dissolves in the wash.

These convenient pods are posing an unexpected problem for children who bite into them. Many require hospital treatment and some need treatment in intensive care units. Serious effects can occur quickly. They include severe vomiting, severe breathing trouble, burns to the esophagus, and coma. The liquid from laundry pods also can cause burns to the eye and skin.

A seven-month-old boy who bit into a laundry pod. He began coughing immediately and was taken to an emergency room in an ambulance. An hour later, the boy was dead. An autopsy confirmed that the laundry pod was the cause of his death.

No one knows yet why these products can be so dangerous. Laundry detergent can be irritating to the eyes, skin, mouth, and throat. But becoming unconscious after getting into the laundry detergent was never expected. Even now, it doesn't happen often. The fact that it's happening at all is an alarming surprise.

It's really important to prevent children from handling detergent pods. Close containers tightly after removing the pods. Store detergent pods where children can't reach them. Manufacturers are developing more secure closures for the pod containers. With new containers, it will still be important to keep detergent pods out of children's reach.

If a child bites into a detergent pod, remove it immediately. Wash the child's face and hands. Gently wipe out the child's mouth. Then, use the webPOISONCONTROL® for guidance or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

If pod contents squirt into a child's eye, rinse the eye with gently running water for 15 minutes. Then, call Poison Control for advice.

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita
Clinical Toxicologist


For More Information

Laundry Products (The Poison Post®)

Laundry room and detergent safety for the entire family (AAP)

Using laundry packets safely (American Cleaning Institute)

Poster about preventing laundry packet poisoning, perfect for a laundromat or apartment laundry room (CPSC)

Fact sheet about single-load laundry detergent packets (CPSC)

Proctor & Gamble child safety message


References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health hazards associated with laundry detergent pods – United States, May-June 2012.MMWR. 61;825-829.

Forrester MB. Comparison of pediatric exposures to concentrated "pack" and traditional laundry detergents. Pediatr Emer Care. 2013;482-486

Valdez AI, Casavant MJ, Spiller HA, Chounthirath T, Xiang H, Smith GA. Pediatric exposure to laundry detergent pods. Pediatrics. 2014;134:1-9. 


Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Laundry detergent pods (and other cleaning products) MUST be kept out of sight and reach of children.
  • Use the locks on laundry pod containers after removing a pod - every time. (This also protects the contents, which dissolve on contact with moisture.)

This Really Happened

Case 1: A 9-month-old boy ate part of a laundry detergent pod. He was brought into the emergency room with trouble breathing, chest congestion, vomiting, and drowsiness. The child was admitted to intensive care and placed on oxygen since he was not breathing normally. A physician specializing in gastrointestinal problems inserted a lighted tube into his esophagus (food tube) to see if there was any injury. He found serious irritation of the esophagus which was treated with intravenous medication. The child spent four days in the hospital.

Case 2: A 7-month-old boy who bit into a laundry pod. He began coughing immediately and was taken to an emergency room in an ambulance. An hour later, the boy was dead. Autopsy results confirmed the laundry pod ingestion as the cause of death.