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You Really Need to Get Rid of Those Laundry Detergent Pods

Photograph by Twenty20

Laundry detergent pods may have made washing clothes more convenient, but they've been nothing but trouble for those trying to look out for the safety of young kids.

Not long after the colorful plastic packets went on the market in 2012, we started hearing about kids mistaking them for candy and eating them. Poison-control centers around the U.S. got thousands of reports of kids under 5 who either tried to eat or accidentally inhaled the contents of the pods. Some got the concentrated detergent inside the plastic pouch on their skin or in their eyes.

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A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that these pods causes more than 25 percent of all eye burns reported in hospitals and clinics around the country in 2015. These chemical burns to the eyes can be permanently damaging.

Consumer Reports stopped recommending the pods because of the danger they pose to children.

"Laundry deteregent pods are presenting more serious symptoms," Consumer Reports wrote when reports of problems first started coming to light. "Along with vomiting, lethargy and delirium, some victims have stopped breathing. Eye injuries are another common hazard. And since 2013, at least two children have died after ingesting a pod."

R. Sterling Haring, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, led the first study of laundry detergent pod-related eye injuries. He told reporters that what he found astounded even him. While looking for data on chemically caused injuries to the eyes, he expected to find the bulk of the reports from adults who worked in industries where they were exposed to the dangers. Instead, he found 50 percent more eyes burns were reported in kids than in adults.

“Community ophthalmologists, optometrists, pediatricians and ER docs were going on the news and saying these are common occurrences—and almost invariably they mentioned laundry detergent pods.”

Between 2012 to 2013, laundry detergent pods poisoned more than 17,000 children. Eye burns presented a different danger because of the concentration of the liquid detergents inside the pods.

Liquid detergent was introduced as laundry pods in 2012, so the injury reports before and after show how frequently kids are getting their hands on the pods and hurting themselves.

Symptoms of poisoning and injury from the pods are different from the ones doctors typically observed from exposure to standard laundry detergents.

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"Approximately 1,500 preschoolers (aged 3-4) visited emergency rooms in 2010 and 2011 due to chemical eye burns, with no cases due to laundry detergent pods. The year 2012 notched 12 cases, and the following year: 262. And in 2015, the last year with available NEISS data, 480 tykes went to the emergency room with laundry detergent pod-related ocular burns," PBS News reported.

Experts like Haring think this trend will continue, despite industry efforts to make the pods less visible or easy to access by altering the packaging.

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