This may be the first fatality due to the ingestion of a concentrated laundry detergent pod.
A seven-month-old from Kissimmee died after ingesting some of the detergent contained in the brightly-colored packet. The child and his mother were living in a battered woman’s shelter, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and the shelter handed out laundry pods, concentrated detergent prepackaged usually bright blue or swirled colors.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers says more than 5,753 children were exposed to these laundry pods during the first seven months of this year. All were age five or younger. The laundry pods were introduced into the U.S. market in 2010 by multiple manufacturers and contain enough concentrated detergent for one wash contained in a water soluble, clear package.
According to the newspaper report, the mother had stepped away from the bed where her son, Michael Williams, was sleeping. When she returned he had ingested one pod, which was on the bed with the laundry, and was working on another one. Alert at first, the infant was taken to Osceola Regional Medical Center where he later died. The cause of death is yet to be officially determined.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes laundry pods are an “emerging health hazard” and the average age of detergent exposure is 2. Consumers Union has been pressuring the government to make the packaging on laundry pods less like candy, therefore less appealing to youngsters. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a safety alert to consumers and appealed to stores to stock the pods up high on store shelves and out of the reach of children.
The Florida Department of Health reports about 20 children die in Florida every year due to accidental poisoning, though the type of poisoning is not reported.
The active ingredient in the detergent may cause extreme vomiting and swelling of the esophagus. Other symptoms can include lethargy, difficulty breathing or gasping for air. A trip to the emergency room is necessary.
The product has become so commonplace that the maker of Tide, Procter & Gamble, has put a double-latch lid on the box and replaced the clear pod package with a solid orange one. Two weeks after the baby’s death, Costco reported it has stop selling its clear plastic jars with pods in them that look like squishy, brightly-colored candies. Instead the retailer will put the pods in an opaque orange plastic container, presumably making the pods less tempting to children.
It is advised to always keep the number of your local poison control center near or in your phone in the case of an emergency. Keep laundry supplies away from food. Keep them stored in their original packaging and locked up where children cannot see or reach them.
If the cause of death is determined to be detergent ingestion, this will be the first laundry pod-related death reported in the U.S.