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Detergent Pods Look Like Candy, Have Been Eaten By Children

Schumer urges feds to require child safety caps and warning labels on containers

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to put forward regulations that result in child safety caps on the packaging of dishwashing and laundry detergent gel pods that are posing serious risks to young children. The gel pods, which are relatively new to the United States, are small in size and come in a variety of bright colors, making them attractive to children, who confuse them with candy. The gel pods, which contain a single dose of detergent, are particularly dangerous to young children because the detergent is highly concentrated. Schumer also urged the companies to immediately consider offering these products with child-safe caps on their own. 

Schumer was joined by Dr. Maida P. Galvez of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Dr. Tamara Kuittinen of Lenox Hill Hospital; Daniel Kass, deputy commissioner of NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Chuck Bell of the Consumer’s Union.

“These pods were supposed to make household chores easier, not tempt our children to swallow harmful chemicals,” said Schumer. “The common sense solution to this problem is for manufacturers to make the product less colorful, and for them to use child-safe caps on the dispensers. Child-safe caps are commonly used on prescription drug bottles, and there is no reason in the world that those protections can’t be used on another product that can be equally dangerous.”

The problem of children consuming these pods, meant for the washing machines or dishwashers, is growing as the products gain popularity in the United States, and the symptoms are severe. The effects of ingesting gel pods include vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, trouble breathing, and a number of children have been hospitalized. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, these packets pose more serious problems when ingested than liquid or powder detergent. Young children can suffer from serious eye damage when the gel pod bursts open and 11 children have been placed on ventilators.

In May, 200 cases had been reported to poison control centers nationwide. That skyrocketed to 1,210 by the end of June. In April, May and June alone, 40 cases have been reported in New York City and a dozen have been reported on Long Island. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there have been 2,950 cases nationwide of children aged 5 and younger swallowing these detergent gel pods.

Schumer is asking for the commission to consider implementing both voluntary and mandatory child-resistant packaging on gel pods, like those found on prescription drug bottles, as well as more prominent warning labels. Schumer said the agency should immediate put forward safety standards that manufacturers can adhere to, and begin the sometimes lengthy process that will ultimately result in such child-resistant packaging being required. In Europe, where the pods have been on the market for years and have caused many more injuries, doctors are sounding the alarm, warning parents not to purchase the product. A paper published this month in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood outlined the growing scope of the problem, saying “Dishwasher and washing machine liquitabs are now a common finding in most homes, but unfortunately seem very attractive to young children.”

Dishwashing and detergent gel pods” are designed to make household chores easier by reducing spills and eliminating uncertainty. Due to their convenience, these products are becoming more and more popular in households in New York and across the country. As they have grown more popular, reports have shown that a growing number of young children are swallowing the gel pods because of their bite-size packaging, bright colors and candy jar-like container.

After skyrocketing reports of children ingesting the detergent gel pods, Procter and Gamble announced in May that they would be implementing a new double-latch lid for the Tide Pods containers, making it much more difficult for children to open the packaging. Schumer noted that the Tide company should be applauded for their efforts and concern about this ongoing problem however, it is clear that these gel pods are still getting into the hands of young children and more needs to be done.