CPSC: Laundry packets linked to poisonings

If you’ve seen the advertisements for them, or tried them out, you know the attraction of the new single-load laundry packets. “Tide’s reinventing the way you do laundry!” says the marketing for Tide Pods, saying the soft, translucent packets are “a detergent, stain fighter, and brightener all in one.”

Unfortunately, the packets are attractive enough that they’ve also drawn the interest of small children, according to a warning today from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC says the packets “are attractive to children as play items because they are soft and colorful and they resemble familiar items like candy, toys and teething products.”

It’s not just a theoretical risk – for either children or adults.

“In 2012 alone, CPSC staff has learned of about 500 incidents involving children and adults who were injured by the product,” the agency says. “Children have required hospitalization from ingesting the product due to loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing (requiring intubation). Eye contact with detergent from ruptured packets has also resulted in medical treatment for severe irritation and temporary vision loss due to ocular burns.”

The CPSC’s full warning, here, is a reminder of what some may consider obvious but others overlook: To pack a laundry load’s worth of cleaning power into such small, soluble packets, detergent manufacturers are using increasingly concentrated chemicals. The CPSC says: “Because these packets dissolve quickly and release highly concentrated toxic chemicals when contacted with water, wet hands, or saliva, consumers are strongly urged to always handle laundry packets carefully and with dry hands.”