They’re convenient, but they’re also dangerous – even potentially deadly.
They’re called “laundry pods, and they’ve made the news in recent weeks because since 2012, poison-control centers nationwide have received reports of nearly 7,700 pod-related poisonings of children ages 5 and younger.
There has been at least one pod-caused death widely reported. At a battered women’s shelter in Kissimee, Fla., a boy less than 1 year old grabbed a pod that was in a laundry basket on a bed where the child had been sleeping. The mother saw the child eating the pod and dialed 911. The boy was rushed to the hospital but later died.
The National Center for Disease Control in Atlanta called the pod poisonings “an emerging health hazard” and just recently issued a widespread safety alert about the pods. It’s true liquid and powdered laundry detergents have also been ingested by children, but usually they cause only mild stomach upsets and/or vomiting. The pods, however, can cause excessive vomiting, lethargy and gasping for breath. In some cases, victims stopped breathing and needed ventilation support.
Pods, at this point, have only about a 6 percent share of the laundry-detergent market, according to Consumer Reports, and yet the pods are responsible for a hugely disproportionate share of detergent-poisoning illnesses. The reason for that? Most believe it’s because the pods resemble brightly colored and alluring pieces of candy. Children, naturally, want to taste the bright “candies.”
Fortunately, most laundry-detergent companies who make the pods are now working on ways to make packages child-proof, to put warning labels on them for parents and to make the pods appear less like delicious, brightly colored candies.
Even if those changes are made, parents should still keep containers of laundry pods in a high cupboard, preferably locked, or at least inaccessible to little ones.
In the meantime, the news about laundry pods should remind all parents to do a child-safety inventory of all household products. Such potentially toxic products include all soaps and detergents, ammonia, bleach, cleansers, paints and varnishes, scent products, deodorants and virtually any kind of cleaning products. Many of those products do have child-safety caps on them, but as many adults know, children are often more adept at opening such products than their parents are.
Compared to even a decade ago, there has been a proliferation of products dangerous to children and pets. Therefore, now is a good time, before the new year arrives, to do a thorough inventory of each home and apartment for such potentially toxic (or even lethal) products. They should be placed in out-of-the-way places: the highest shelves out of sight of children, in locked cabinets or – whenever possible – in locked storage sheds.
Let’s start the new year right by keeping all children safe and sound.