They may be convenient, but those small, colorful soap packets are responsible for a sharp rise in calls to poison control centers involving young children.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that laundry detergent packets are poisoning a growing number of children under age 6. Not only that, children poisoned by the detergent packets are more likely to be hospitalized and suffer serious medical consequences than kids exposed to other forms of detergent, researchers discovered.
The study analyzed nearly 63,000 calls to poison control centers nationwide between 2013 and 2014 involving exposure of children under 6 to laundry and dishwasher detergent. Calls involving laundry detergent packets increased by 17 percent over that time period, and made up the majority of calls – about one call every 45 minutes, researchers found.
Most of the children ate the laundry detergent packets, which were frequently left within sight of the child, in an unlocked cabinet, or briefly unattended by a distracted caregiver. Children under age 3 made up most of the cases, likely because they spend more time at home and are eager to explore their world. The packets are bright, colorful, and don’t look like they would pose a threat to an exploring child.
Almost half of the children exposed to laundry detergent packets ended up in a health care facility – significantly more than the children exposed to other types of detergents. Children exposed to the packets also suffered the most serious health consequences, which included coma, respiratory arrest, and two deaths.
So how can you keep your child safe? In addition to poison proofing your home by keeping detergent locked up, the study’s authors recommend using traditional laundry detergent instead of packets, which appear to be more chemically toxic and concentrated. Also, remember to save the Poison Help Line number 1-800-222-1222 in your phone and post it in your home where others can find it.