WASHINGTON — Last year a Florida mother of a 7-month-old came back to her room to find that her baby had accidentally eaten one of those bright colored laundry detergent pods.
He had been sleeping in a laundry basket with the pod when it happened. They rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late. He died, of poisoning from the detergent, according to the Kissimmee, Florida, police department.
He is not the first child to mistake the potent packet for something else.
Poison control centers around the country have gotten thousands of calls.
In the period of about a year, 17,230 children under the age of 6 have been accidentally poisoned by the packets, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. That’s about one child every hour between March 2012 and April 2013. Of those cases, 4.4% of the children were hospitalized, and 7.5% experienced a “moderate or major medical outcome.”
Children who eat the detergent can immediately go into respiratory distress and vomit violently. If their eye accidentally comes into contact with the pods, exposure can cause severe irritation or even a temporary loss of vision.
The colorful packets can easily be mistaken for candy. Doctors argue there must be more of an effort to prevent children from getting a hold of them. The study authors conclude that a new national safety standard is needed to improve product packaging and labeling. They call the pods a "real risk" to children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen a decline over the years in accidental poisonings due to kids eating household products overall, but the number of accidents related to these pods has increased significantly.
In 2012, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make manufacturers put these pods in child proof packaging. He also wanted better labeling about the product's potential danger to children.
That same year Procter and Gamble changed their packaging on the laundry detergent pods they offer. Tide now has a double lock on their lids. Tide also changed the pod design.
In 2013, CPSC did warn parents about the potential danger. They also asked manufacturers to create better packaging. The agency did not mandate the change.
The American Cleaning Institute in 2013 also launched a safety campaign to better help parents understand the dangers and to be sure to keep them where children cannot reach them.