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Single-dose detergents a poisoning hazard for young children

Consumer Reports News: September 05, 2012 06:38 PM

In the wake of five incidents in which children were seriously injured after swallowing detergent pods, a group of doctors is calling for improved safety warnings and childproof packaging for single-dose laundry and dishwasher detergents. "This is a significant public health issue," which requires a rethink, the doctors wrote in a pediatric journal.

"Dishwasher and washing machine liquitabs are now a common finding in most homes, but unfortunately, seem very attractive to young children due to their bright colouring and soft sweetie-like texture," the Scottish doctors wrote in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. They said they have written to manufacturers asking for enhanced safety precautions.

The cluster of cases, which occurred within a span of 18 months, involved children under the age of two, including one 10-month-old. All five children were admitted to the same hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, as emergencies, emitting a high pitched wheeze that indicated a blockage in the airway.

The oldest of the five children was treated with antibiotics and steroids, but the other four had to be put on a ventilator for several days to treat swelling and ulceration. In one child the swelling and ulceration was so extensive that surgery was required, according to the report. All the children eventually recovered.

Detergent packs are the fastest growing segment of the industry, so safety is indeed a concern. As we reported earlier this year, Tide added a double-latched lid to the plastic tubs that hold the individual Tide Pods to make the containers tougher to open. Since the beginning of the year, poison-control centers have received 2,950 calls regarding exposure to single-use laundry detergent packs involving children age five or younger. In response to the reports, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is taking a closer look at the single-use packs.

Consumer Reports recommends keeping all detergents, along with any household cleaner, out of the reach of children. And if your child does swallow one of these single-use laundry packs, call the poison-control helpline immediately at 800-222-1222, since serious effects can happen very quickly.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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