Two years ago, MNN's home blogger Matt wrote about the rising incidents of children being poisoned by an emerging product, detergent pods. Young children can mistake the colorful pods for candy, ingesting them or ripping open the plastic coatings and getting the harsh chemicals on their skin or in their eyes.
At that time, detergent pods had been out for less than a year. During that time, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that 2,950 children had been poisoned by the pods.
From March 2012 to April 2013, 17,230 cases of children under the age of 6 being exposed to laundry detergent pods were reported to U.S. poison control centers. Not all of these children were hospitalized, but 4.4 percent of them ended up going to the hospital and 7.5 percent of them "experienced a moderate or major medical outcome." Sadly, the study reports one child died from being poisoned by a laundry detergent pod.
Those who did the study suggested that steps to prevent exposure to the pods might include "improvements in product packaging and labeling, development of a voluntary product safety standard and public education." They also suggested reformulating the pods to "mitigate the severity of clinical effects."
This trend has continued as well. Another study from Pediatrics, this one published in 2016, found that between 2013 and 2014, kids' exposure to the laundry detergent pods rose by 17 percent over the study's time period. The researchers also found that the laundry pods were responsible for a number of intubations and two deaths.
When Matt wrote about the pods two years ago, he had another solution. If you have young kids in the house, he said, "don't buy them despite their obvious benefits." If you do, he suggested, keep them out of reach or lock them up.
I'd go with his first suggestion — don't buy them. Those 17,230 cases of children under the age of 6 being exposed equates to about one child every hour coming into dangerous contact with the pods. That's a scary and serious statistic.
What other product, other than perhaps a car, would any parent purchase that had the real potential to harm a child every hour? Laundry detergent pods may be convenient for some people, but is that convenience worth the risk? The huge numbers can't all be chalked up to bad parenting.
There is always the chance of human error, even with the most vigilant of parents. The NYT tells the story of one mother who kept the pods on a high shelf, but one accidentally fell on the ground and she didn't realize it. When her 18-month-old son ate the pod, he ended up in intensive care for three days. She has switched back to liquid detergent.
I don't buy pods because they're more expensive, and I don't think the convenience of tossing a pod into the washer as opposed to pouring liquid detergent warrants the expense at all. I also don't have young children anymore. But, if I did buy the pods for convenience sake and had young children, I would stop using them.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was originally published on Nov. 11, 2014.