The Centers for Disease Control is calling detergent packet poisoning an “emerging public health risk”– a pattern noticed this spring with Tide Pods. Overall, consumers on Viewpoints like the product.
Leading physicians at the Centers for Disease Control are weighing in on the risk posed by laundry packets, which have been around since 2010 but marketed widely beginning in 2012 with the launch of the Tide Pods. This is an exerpt of the CDC statement dated October 19, 2012:
Clinicians should be aware that all household cleaning products and detergents have the potential to cause illness, but that laundry detergent pod exposures might represent an emerging public health concern because laundry pod exposures had an increased frequency of adverse signs, symptoms, and health outcomes versus non-pod laundry detergent exposures in a vulnerable population. Parents and caregivers should be particularly aware that young children might be drawn to laundry detergent pods because of their candy-like appearance, and that exposure to laundry detergent from pods has been associated with more severe adverse health effects. Parents need to ensure they can prevent children from gaining access to household cleaning products, particularly laundry detergent pods. Clinicians and caregivers are encouraged to report laundry detergent exposures and cases of associated illness to their local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.
Nearly 3,000 cases reported
The American Association of Poison Control Centers, which represents 57 local poison control centers across the United States, now reports 2,950 cases of exposure to detergent packets like Tide Pods, however spokesperson Loreeta Canton says the number could be much higher because while doctors may report the cases voluntarily, they are not required to report information about the children they treat. The number is based on the calls placed to local poison control centers for information from parents and emergency rooms from January 1, 2012, to August 31, 2012. (The term “exposure” means someone has had contact with the substance in some way; for example, swallowed, inhaled, absorbed by the skin or eyes, etc. Not all exposures are poisonings or overdoses.) These are the most recent statistics furnished by the AAPCC.
Consumers on Viewpoints weigh in
Viewpoints reviewers were among the first to spot the potential danger. From an an article posted April 27:
Contributor mstyeyes writes, “LOVVVVVE these!! My kids scramble to the laundry room when they hear me turn on the machine so they can be the one to put the pod in, but another reviewer worries:
“The first thing I thought of was, to keep them out of the reach of small children. I think these would fascinate them.” –Susie-34668
Judging by reviews on Viewpoints in the past few months, there is some indication word is spreading:
“It is a good product, although it does need to be keep away from children. But over all it does the job that you need done and it is so easy to use. –Princedale1
There is little evidence, however, that the publicity surrounding the incidents of poisoning has dampened enthusiasm for the colorful product. Tide Pods are rated 88/100, an average grade for laundry detergents on site. Several reviewers even comment that they like the fact that children can help.
“Even the grandkids can do the wash with no spilling of the detergent.” –Nancysfancy32935
“Easy enough for the kids to do.” –dmdifalco
Reponse from Tide
Shortly after reports began surfacing that children indeed were getting sick, Tide took steps to more aggressively address the situation. Proctor & Gamble, parent company of Tide, posted this statement dated May 25 as a blogpost on its website:
Thanks for Helping Us Spread the Word, for the Safety of Our Little Ones
Our Response to Recent Reports of Incidents Involving Single Pack Detergents
At P&G, we’re committed to ensuring that our products and packaging are safe for you and your family.
You may have heard some recent reports of children ingesting laundry detergent packets that were left within their reach. We’re taking these reports very seriously.
While this issue affects all single dose laundry detergent packets on the market (not just those made by P&G), Tide Pods — as the market leader — is receiving much of the attention.
Like all P&G products and packaging, Tide Pods are safe when they’re used and stored according to the package directions. That’s why we’re working with the American Cleaning Institute to educate and promote the safe handling, use and disposal of all laundry detergents, and to remind everyone that cleaning products must be kept out of the reach of children at all times. We encourage other manufacturers to join us in these efforts. (Please read the instructions on our web site for the proper use and storage of laundry detergent.)
And as an added safeguard against similar accidents in the future, we’re introducing a double-latch closure lid on tubs of Tide Pods, which will be available on store shelves starting July 2012.
Most importantly, this serves as a reminder of the responsibility we share to keep all household cleaning products out of the reach of children. Laundry detergent packets are no exception.
Thanks for helping us spread the word, for the safety of our little ones.
Viewpoints reported on May 30 that Tide was rushing canisters to market with a child-proof ‘double latch,’ however Consumer Reports indicates that even though the new containers started shipping in July, some of the original containers without the safety latch are still on store shelves. A P&G spokesperson told Consumer Reports that there’s a “time lag that normally happens with distribution” and that “it will take a little while longer until all the product with the single latch is totally replaced with the double latch lid.” Consumer Reports is calling for detergent pods to be sold in opaque containers. The question remains how the packets sold in resealable pouches will be marketed in the future.
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with detergents or household cleaning supplies, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.