Ideas for Halloween costumes and decorations abound on Pinterest, Instructables, and other websites, including one that should frighten any parent of small children. Empty containers of Tide Pods laundry detergents are being fashioned into Halloween buckets to hold treats (shown above). This do-it-yourself Halloween bucket is a really bad idea because you should never put food in a soap container, but that's not the worst of it.

Tide, made by Procter & Gamble, designed these bright-orange containers to discourage children from grabbing the colorful detergent pods, which have been mistaken for candy by some youngsters. But even with such efforts by P&G and other laundry detergent manufacturers, poisoning by exposure to the detergent in liquid laundry packets of all brands continues to be a problem.

The reason the Tide containers are opaque plastic, instead of clear, is to make their detergent pods less visible to children and reduce the temptation for curious kids to reach into the container. So far this year, poison-control centers nationwide have received reports of 8,845 kids 5 and younger being exposed to the detergent in liquid laundry pods and pacs, such as by ingesting, inhaling, or absorbing the contents through their skin or getting it in their eyes, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

By comparison, poison-control centers have received 6,270 reports of young children getting into regular liquid and powder laundry detergent for the first nine months of the year. Swallowing that detergent often causes a mild case of stomach upset, if there are any symptoms at all, the AAPCC says. 

A child's exposure to liquid laundry pods, however, can have significantly more serious effects because detergent pods are usually highly concentrated, the AAPCC says. A study published in Pediatrics in May 2016 found that exposure to pods resulted in two deaths and that 104 children required intubation in 2013 and 2014. Other serious effects included coma, seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, eye irritation, and corneal abrasion.


Read our past coverage of the problem with laundry detergent pods.
 

The Industry Reponds

Since 2012, Consumer Reports has called on manufacturers to make pods safer. Many manufacturers switched from clear- to opaque-plastic containers, and some added child-resistant latches. But as pods became more popular, the number of reported exposures continued to increase, so we called for more changes.

We’re also part of the committee that has set a new voluntary standard for the industry, which includes adding a bitter-tasting substance on the outer film of the pods and ensuring that the pods are tougher to burst when squeezed. Elizabeth Kinney, a Procter & Gamble spokeswoman, says that all of the company's liquid laundry pods are in compliance with the new standard and that P&G has also released Tide Pods in Child-Guard Zipper Packs

“All manufacturers should finish rolling out their changes as soon as possible and should share incident data that shows whether or not the voluntary standard is enough to protect children,” says William Wallace, a policy analyst with Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.

We continue to urge households where children younger than 6 spend time to not use laundry pods until safety measures lead to a meaningful drop in injuries. Households should also make sure they keep all detergents and household cleaners out of sight and out of reach.

In fact, you should never reuse packaging from these products, especially for food or beverage storage, because detergent residue could linger. And never store cleaning products in containers that could easily be mistaken for a food or drink.

Trick-or-Treat
Shopping bags and old pillowcases are ideal for hauling Halloween loot. As for reusing things around the home to make costumes, check out the fun ideas at Upcycle That