Laundry Packets: A Deadly Danger

When you think of laundry, you usually think of a chore or perhaps fresh sheets, but you usually don’t think of danger. However in the last two years a new product has appeared that may change that. The new laundry packets are here and they are convenient, colorful, and popular.  However in the hands of a young child they can be fatal. Two weeks ago a baby died after ingesting one of these laundry detergent packets.

In the last year alone more than 6,000 children under 5 years old have ingested these laundry packets, with more than 3,000 of them needing to go to the emergency room. And the trend continues to increase.

These packets are brightly colored and about the size of a small cake or candy. They are very attractive colors (Orange white and blue) and about the right size for their small hands. In a recent test of 2 year olds (who were closely watched for safety), the 2 year olds picked up the laundry packets before they chose a piece of actual candy! Here in Ohio we have had more than 350 children ingest these packets.

Symptoms from ingestion can be vomiting, oral burns, airway swelling and burns, breathing difficulty, and decreased consciousness.  This new product should be kept out of reach of your children and out of sight. High up and in a locked cabinet are good ideas. If you think your child has ingested one sweep out the mouth. Do not make them vomit (but they may vomit spontaneously) . Then call the poison center and you will get an expert immediately.

So if you have small children in the home, remember that wonderful, curious, nature may sometimes get them into trouble. If you have questions call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Save the number in your cell phone or call for a free magnet with the poison center number and an information packet how to poison proof your home.

Henry Spiller
Henry Spiller is the director of the Central Ohio Poison Center. He has spent more than 30 years in toxicology, with more than 300 publications in the field. Henry is the proud father of five (3 girls, 2 boys) and an avid soccer player when his aging knees let him play.

5 thoughts on “Laundry Packets: A Deadly Danger

  1. Maria Troskowski on said:

    I’m wondering if the little pods for dishwashers pose the same threat?? I am assuming yes. My laundry soap is usually kept up high, but the ones for the dishwasher are kept in the cabinet under the sink, so I’m thinking I better find a better place. Thank you so much for this info!

    1. Henry Spiller on said:

      To date we have not seen the problems with teh dishwasher pods – They use a cationinc detergent, different from the components in the laundry detergents

  2. The product is fine ….The parents need to be more responsible and watch their kids !!!!! instead of letting them run around and do what ever they want !!!!!!!!!!

  3. Donna Mahovsky on said:

    Is the product safe when used properly. Would the same bad things happen to a child ingesting a liquid laundry detergent? I understand the attraction to a child. Just wondering if it is a different solution than a regular detergent. I guess we should be using something more organic?

    Just bought a bunch thinking they were handy. No children….grandchildren.

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