Bad News: Kids Are Getting Hurt by Laundry Pods (Without Eating Them)

Capsules with laundry detergent
Ivanna Grigorova/Shutterstock

Many parents know -- or have at least heard in passing -- about the dangers of laundry detergent pods. As nifty and hassle-free as these liquid capsules are, small children swallow laundry packets -- often confusing them with candy -- at alarming rates. And sadly, ingestion isn't the only thing parents need to worry about. A new study reveals laundry pod–related eye injuries in kids are steadily on the rise.

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Experts noticed a significant increase in reported ocular chemical burns among small children in the past few years and decided to dig deeper. Researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (which tracks ER visits for injuries stemming from consumer products) to analyze data from 2010 to 2015 -- particularly keeping a close eye on chemical burn incidents involving 3- and 4-year-olds.

The results are pretty shocking.

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Their study, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, shows a drastic spike in eye-related chemical burns from laundry pods during that five-year period. There were 1,201 eye injuries among 3- and 4-year-olds within that time frame, which reflects a 30-fold increase in the rate of ocular injuries due to laundry pods

Between 2012 and 2015 alone, the number of reported laundry pod–associated chemical burns among children ages 3 and 4 rose exponentially, from 12 cases in 2012 to 480 cases in 2015. 

Yikes!

Researchers believe little ones are getting their hands on these candy-like detergent capsules and squeezing them to the point of liquid squirting in their eyes, or rubbing their eyes with the liquid on their hands.

Dr. R. Sterling Haring, a study coauthor and physician at Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, is concerned about these injuries, as the chemicals used in detergent pods are extremely dangerous.

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"The chemicals, like those found in these detergent pods, can cause long-term, potentially permanent vision damage," Dr. Haring told Today. "It's squishy, it's fun to play with -- these kids are playing with them like they're toys or they're trying to bite into them like they're candy."

Even though laundry pod manufacturers have agreed to new safety standards, I just can't bring myself to use them in my house. I have heard one too many stories about parents who proactively kept laundry detergent packets out of reach, only to discover their child had Spiderman-like abilities to climb and find these laundry accessories.

Knowing my 3- and 1½-year-old boys are very curious and super tall for their ages (my oldest gets confused for a first-grader), I fear they'd be able to find laundry pods in my house, too. Plus, I don't mind using the old-school liquid detergents to wash clothes.

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That said, I truly hope the warnings about laundry pods create more awareness about their inherent dangers and encourage the manufacturers to implent better safety precautions, because too many kids are getting hurt.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports 769 laundry pod–related incidents among children ages 5 and under in January 2017 alone.

I don't know what the solution is, but I hope we find one soon.

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