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New concentrated detergent packets may look like candy to kids, calls to poison control on the rise

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Increased calls to poison control centers across the United States involving children ingesting small “single dose packs” of laundry detergent have prompted the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) to issue a warning about the products.

Several laundry detergent manufacturers have recently introduced miniature detergent packets or “pods” that contain highly concentrated detergent and dissolve in water, including Tide Pods and Purex UltraPacks, as an alternative to lugging heavy jugs, measuring and spills. However, the brightly colored products may look like candy to children.

According to the Associated Press, poison control centers have already received nearly 250 calls involving children and laundry detergent packets this year. The packets seem to be causing more serious health effects than ingestion of standard laundry detergent.

“The rapid onset of significant symptoms is pretty scary,” said Dr. Michael Beuhler, medical director of the Carolinas Poison Center. “Other laundry detergents cause only mild stomach upset or even no symptoms at all. Although we aren’t certain what in the product is making the children sick, we urge all parents and caregivers to make sure laundry detergent packs are not accessible to young kids.”

A 20-month-old child who swallowed a laundry detergent packet developed severe vomiting, wheezing and gasping before becoming unresponsive to even painful stimuli.

Two other children, one 15 months old and another 17 months old, bit into laundry detergent packets, ingesting the contents. Both required hospitalization and doctors placed them on ventilators.

“The packs themselves are safe, regardless of who manufactures them, provided that they are used for their intended purpose,” Procter & Gamble spokesperson Paul Fox told the AP. “The risk becomes when they’re left like any other household product within reach of small, inquisitive hands.”

P&G manufactures Tide Pods.

"This is a new form of laundry product and we will continue to join other manufacturers to safeguard and educate consumers on the correct storage and use of these products in the home," said Kiem Ho, Vice President Marketing – Purex at Henkel Consumer Goods Inc., manufacturer of Purex UltraPacks.

The AAPCC recommends that people keep detergents locked up and out of reach of children, follow disposal instructions on the product labeling, and call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately if their child is exposed to one of these laundry detergent packets.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers is a non-profit, national organization founded in 1958 that represents the poison control centers of the United States and the interests of poison prevention and treatment of poisoning.