The unfortunate latest dangerous fad is the Tide pod challenge, where teenagers put single use laundry packets into their mouths. The idea of eating laundry packets has been circulating online in the past couple years, including an article in The Onion in 2015 and a College Humor video back in March which showed a college student eating a bowl full of laundry packets (and ending up in a hospital). Now there are numerous actual online challenges to eat, bite into, or even cook with the laundry packets. Although the social media fad is recent, laundry packets have been a safety concern for several years now.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that as far back as 2012, Poison Centers received over 6000 calls about laundry packet exposures in children five years and under. In 2017, over 10,000 children and 200 teenagers reported exposure. This year so far, there have been at least 37 reported exposures among teenagers, half of them intentional.
Because laundry packets are highly concentrated compared to traditional laundry detergent, the impact can be more severe. Injuries from ingestion (incuding biting and spitting out) or inhalation of detergent include difficulty breathing potentially requiring intubation, seizures, excessive vomiting, and death. A study from earlier this year found that between 2015 and 2017, chemical burns to the eye increased by more than 30 fold among preschoolers.
If parents of young children decide they want to use laundry packets in their home, they should keep them locked up high and out of reach of children. If a child is exposed, parents should be instructed to call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
Read our previous blog post on why these online challenges are so attractive to teenagers.
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