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Detergent pods should be safer

The Detergent PACS Act would set safety standards to protect kids

Published: February 27, 2015 05:25 PM

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A Tide Pod

Liquid detergent pods have grown in popularity since their introduction in 2012. But these packets have also become a health hazard for children, who might mistake the brightly colored, squishy packets for candy.

In 2014 alone, poison-control centers received reports of 11,713 exposures to laundry detergent pods by kids 5 years and younger. Some children who have put a detergent pod in their mouth have experienced severe reactions such as seizures, excessive vomiting, and respiratory arrest.

The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act, or Detergent PACS Act, is a new bill in Congress that aims to prevent these accidents. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have introduced the legislation in the House and Senate, respectively. Their bills direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue safety standards within a year and a half.

The standards would require special child-resistant packaging on the outer container of detergent pods. The standards would have to address the design and color of the pods to make them less attractive to children, and reduce the likelihood of exposure to detergent.

The bills say the standards must address the composition of the pods to make the consequences of exposure less severe, and prescribe warning labels to adequately inform consumers of the types and severity of hazards, and what to do to avoid injury.

“We applaud the lawmakers who introduced this important legislation to help make these products safer. It only takes a few seconds for a child to mistake a packet for candy, grab it, burst it, and be exposed to the packet’s contents,” said Ellen Bloom, senior director of federal policy for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

We also believe that there should also be an inner wrapper around each individual detergent pod.

The bills would allow a voluntary industry standard to become the safety standard in lieu of a mandatory CPSC standard, as long as the voluntary standard protects children as described above, would be in effect no later than one year after enactment, and is developed by ASTM International, a nonprofit standards-setting organization.

For years, we have pressed manufacturers and policymakers to make laundry detergent pods safer and urged parents to keep the products out of reach of young children.

We support the Detergent PACS Act, and we’re going to push hard to get this legislation approved and signed into law.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other articles in our Policy & Action series.

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