Why Are Laundry Pods Hospitalizing Children?

A new report reveals that laundry pods, the small packets of individual amounts of laundry detergent, are a serious hazard for children.

The single-use packets — often called "pods" after the popular Tide Pods brand — sent an average of one child a day to hospitals in 2012 and 2013, the first two years they were widely available in the United States, says the report out Monday in Pediatrics.

During 2012-13, more than 17,000 calls (an average of one an hour!) came into poison control about children who were exposed to the detergent packs.

Children ages 1 and 2 — old enough to be mobile but too young to recognize danger — are most at risk, he says. "These products are colorful. They can look like candy or juice to a young child."

Children poke through the packets and "get this concentrated squirt of detergent down their throats."

Manufacturers have put warnings on the product and made it harder to open the pod's containers.

[Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio] and colleagues found that calls to poison centers about the products started to decline in late 2013. Packaging changes and education efforts by manufacturers, pediatricians and others may have contributed, they say. But Smith says that for unknown reasons, poison centers typically get fewer calls in the later months of the year, so data from 2014 will be needed to see if there is a sustained decline.

Smith advises parents with young children not to use the pods or make them hard to reach for young children. 

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