Children Are Burning Their Eyes by Playing with Laundry Pods

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We’ve known for several years now that the detergent pods many find so convenient for cleaning clothes pose serious hazards to children who get a hold of and ingest them.

But a research letter published in JAMA Ophthalmology has unveiled another danger: Preschool children are damaging their eyes by playing with the pods.

Tide Pod (left) vs. gummy candies. Credit: Terri Borman

Because the pods contain bright colors and are packaged like candy, small children find them appealing. The JAMA Ophthalmology study showed that between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2015, more than 1,200 pod-related burns to the eyes occurred among children ages 3 and 4. The number of incidents increased 30-fold from 2012 to 2015.

“These injuries most often occurred when children were handling the pods and the contents squirted into one or both of their eyes or when the pod contents leaked onto their hands and a burn resulted from subsequent hand-eye contact,” JAMA reported in a news release.

Related: Children’s Teething, Ear Products Recalled Due to Possibly Toxic Ingredient

“These data suggest that the role of laundry detergent pods in eye injuries among pre-school-aged children is growing,” wrote the authors, which included representatives from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and Carver College of Medicine at University of Iowa. “As with most injuries in this age group, these burns occurred almost exclusively in the home. In addition to proper storage and use of these devices, prevention strategies might include redesigning packaging to reduce the attractiveness of these products to young children and improving their strength and durability.”

In July 2015, Consumer Reports stopped recommending the pods and warned households with children not to use them. The recommendation came on the coattails of a report that 7,184 incidents were reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPC) between January and July of that year alone.

Children who ingested the pods experienced profuse vomiting, trouble breathing, and a few even died.

In September, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission teamed up with the AAPC to convene industry experts, manufacturers, safety advocates and scientists to help draft voluntary safety guidelines for the pods, according to ABC News.

The group recommended the pods be coated with a “repulsive” taste, that the packaging no longer be transparent, and that it be made more difficult to open and with more warning labels.

At that time, Procter & Gamble, maker of Tide Pods, told ABC News it “will work diligently to ensure that our products meet all of these guidelines.” Procter & Gamble had already redesigned the pods in 2013 due to similar concerns.

The AAPC urges parents and guardians of children who get into or are otherwise exposed to a laundry pod to call the poison control center immediately at (800) 222-1222.

Related: Report Finds Beauty Products Marketed to Black Women Have a Higher Chance of Being Toxic

A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”