The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 6, 2013

Children confuse colorful laundry pods with candy

By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item

— DANVILLE — Colorful detergent capsules are being mistaken by toddlers nationwide as candy or toys, leading to extensive damage to their eyes and skin.

“Kids see them as a brightly colored object,” said Dr. Melanie Weller, assistant chief of pediatrics at Geisinger Medical Center’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. “Kids’ normal reaction is to explore the world with their mouths,” she said, and the colored capsules look very appealing to young minds.

One of the most popular brands are Tide Pods. Their plastic containers have detergent on the bottom and liquid soap on top.

The detergent pods also contain bleach, which can perforate the esophagus and prove fatal. However, said Weller, there have been no cases like that at Geisinger.

“I personally have not seen anything that bad, and I’m not aware we’ve had anything like that here,” she said. “We’d like to keep it that way.”

Weller said she has seen two cases of detergent-related illness in children at Geisinger within the past few weeks, and the hospital has seen about a half dozen similar patients in the last two months.

“It does happen throughout the country quite frequently,” Weller said.

The capsules are a recent invention, with Tide releasing its Tide Pods last February. Similar products from other companies are also available. The Centers for Disease Control reported that there were more than 3,000 nationwide ingestion incidents from February 2012 to August 2012.

“Some of the most common things they cause is skin reaction,” said Weller.

“The soap is extremely concentrated,” she said, and can cause chemical burns. Children’s eyes can be damaged if they are exposed.

If the caustic soap is swallowed, it can tear up a child’s throat. It can also affect a child’s mental state, making them feel tired or sleepy or behave out of character.

 “Parents don’t think of laundry detergent as something a child may necessarily go into,” Weller said. “This is just as dangerous as any other cleaning product out there, and it should be kept well away from kids.”

Weller advised keeping detergent capsules out of reach of children and toddlers, in a locked cupboard or in a container that cannot be easily opened by children.

Tide offers a free, reusable sticker seal for its Tide Pods on its website.

Of course, the best way to prevent a child from getting hurt is to have a parent always keep an eye on them, Weller said. “We’re seeing this, it’s a dangerous thing and we don’t want it to happen to our kids.”