With original formula Tide emerging as a hot commodity on the liquid detergent black market and activists all riled up over the “problematic” levels of carcinogenic solvent 1,4-dioxane found in marketed-for-babies Tide Free & Clear, it’s been a year of Tide-related terror for Procter & Gamble, parent company of America’s most popular laundry detergent. And the blows keep on coming with the ongoing news that a whole bunch of youngsters — around 2,950 to date according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers — have been poisoned after chowing down on the company’s newfangled Tide Pods and other brands of super-concentrated laundry detergent packs.
I realize that candy has evolved quite a bit since my Necco Wafer-popping heyday, but even as a toddler I’d like to think I’d know better than to put a dissolvable detergent/stain fighter/brightener capsule in my mouth. But then again, from the sounds of it, the squishy/colorful/bite-sized/delicious-looking nature of Tide Pods is just too tempting for many curious tykes to resist.
One of the most hotly anticipated items to hit the laundry/cleaning product aisle this year, Tide Pods are not only designed to be convenient — they eliminate the need to handle bulky bottles or deal with pesky measuring and pouring — but more environmentally friendly, as the pre-measured solution within each capsule requires less water than traditional liquid detergent. Plus, there's less packaging.
However, the actual single-dose detergent contained within the hot-selling packs — available in three noxious-sounding scents: Spring Meadow, Ocean Mist and Mystic Forest — is thought to be more toxic to young children than traditional liquid and powered detergents. In most cases, young children have suffered from severe nausea, vomiting, and respiratory issues after ingesting the capsules. Some of these kiddos have been placed on ventilators while others have suffered eye injuries after chomping into the packs.
"The regular detergents that have been around forever don’t appear to cause the same problems, and we don’t know why,” Dr. Bruce Ruck, assistant director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System told the New York Times back in May, just a couple months after health authorities — and the media — began to notice the trend. “We don’t know yet what’s different about them. They’ve only been on the market a short period of time.”
Dr. Richard Geller, medical director for the California Poison Control System, expresses similar concern in a Los Angeles Times article published this week. “Overwhelmingly, these occurred in children less than 5 years of age. While pediatric exposure to powdered laundry detergent is not new, the degree of illness associated with these new products appears unique."
In California alone, 307 cases of accidentally ingestion of laundry packs by young children have been reported this year. And the cases in California, and nationwide, aren’t just limited to toddlers snarfing Tide Pods. When the product was released, Tide rivals such as All and Purex launched their own single-dose detergent capsules as well. Earlier this summer, Tide reconfigured the packaging of the product, adding a double-latched lid to the plastic tubs containing the Pods to make it more difficult for children to tamper with. Still, the number of reported incidents continues to climb along with news stories warning parents to take caution.
Just yesterday, Consumer Reports reported on a wave of Tide Pod-related poisonings in Glasgow, Scotland while the New York Daily News published a quick article stating that in New York City alone, 40 children have been hospitalized after eating the packs since April. TODAY also just published a piece on the alarming trend in which Ken Wahl, medical director for the Illinois Poison Center states: "I’ve never seen a consumer product that had that degree of injury in a child."
Obviously, kids-eating-detergent-packets issue isn’t going away anytime soon although the Consumer Product Safety Commission is on the case. The best defense for those with young children in the house? Don’t buy them despite their obvious benefits. And if you continue to do so, store them safely out of reach from prying hands just as you would any other household cleaner. Or even better, lock 'em up. It’s a no brainer.
In related news, Seventh Generation recently released its own line of natural laundry detergent packs. Although I’m guessing the toxicity level of Seventh Gen concentrated powder packs is far lower than that of Tide Pods and other conventional options — they’re biodegradable, free of synthetic fragrances and dyes, and far less candy-like in appearance — they should still be stored appropriately. This apartment-dwelling laundromat patron recently got his hands on some and looks forward to trying them out.
Anyone out there had a close call with Tide Pod and other single-dose laundry detergent packs? Have you avoided buying them all together due to their unfortunate toddler appeal?
Related child safety story on MNN: 7 things kids need to know about interacting with dogs
Product shots: Procter & Gamble