One of the most popular new products for doing your laundry are detergent pods: Little plastic packets of a measured amount of liquid laundry detergent that you just throw into the washer with a load of dirty clothes. Unfortunately, the plump packets are usually brightly colored and too easily confused with candy or a teething toy.
From their introduction in 2012 through the end of 2013, more than 17,000 children under age 6 have eaten or inhaled the detergent from a packet or squirted the contents into their eyes. There have been two confirmed deaths. This figure is thought to be an underestimate because it only counts cases there were reported to a poison control database.
This week, a safety standard for packaging and labeling these laundry pods was approved by A.S.T.M. International, an organization that helps industry establish product standards. It is the first standard for these products. However, adherence to the new packaging standard is not mandatory for any manufacturers. It is not known when the makers of laundry pods will have to redesign their products.
The recommendations for packaging and labeling had to be negotiated by a group of industry representatives along with consumer and medical groups as well as officials from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. The changes are expected to greatly reduce the number of children poisoned by laundry pods, Richard Sedlak, the executive vice president of technical affairs at the American Cleaning Institute, an industry group, told The New York Times.
Laundry pods are liquid detergent encased in a plastic film that dissolves when wet. When a baby or toddler puts one in his or her mouth and bites down, the contents burst out easily into the mouth and down the throat. In most cases, the concentrated detergent is swallowed all at once. Most children who swallow laundry detergent may become lethargic, start coughing, or choke. If the detergent went into their eyes, the eyes became irritated.
Since their introduction, some manufacturers have made changes to the packaging or added safety symbols to their products warning to keep out of reach of children. Some are now selling the pods in opaque bins that are harder to open.