Florida newspaper reports infant death after ingestion of detergent pod

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Statement by Consumers Union: Florida newspaper reports infant death after ingestion of detergent pod

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Orlando Sentinel today reported that a 7-month-old boy died after eating a laundry detergent packet in Kissimmee, Fla., last week.

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said this tragic incident reminds the public of the dangers of these highly-concentrated detergent pods.  The Sentinel reported that a full investigation into the incident is underway to confirm the cause of death.

Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “Children may mistake these laundry pods for candy because of their colorful appearance and soft, squishy texture.  The ingestion of these highly-concentrated packets can cause excessive vomiting, lethargy, gasping, or loss of breath.”

This incident in Florida could be the first reported death tied to detergent packets in the U.S., the Sentinel said.  Between January 1 and July 31 this year, there have been reports of 5,753 children who were exposed to single-load laundry packets, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.  For the full year of 2012, poison control centers reported reports of 6,231 exposures by children 5 and younger.  In some serious cases, children have been hospitalized in critical condition requiring ventilators.

Gadhia said, “Companies should consider changing the color of the pods to make them less appealing or coating them with a foul-tasting material.”

Consumers Union has spoken with manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to press for product improvements and the development of better packaging and prominent warning labels.  Plus, we believe retailers should improve in-store signage to better alert shoppers.  More information about laundry packets is available on the Consumer Reports web site here.

The Sentinel reported that Kissimmee authorities responded August 9 to a women’s shelter where the child’s mother reported she had put detergent pods, handed out by the shelter, inside a laundry basket on the bed where her son was sleeping.  A police spokeswoman said the mother stepped away and when she returned, the child had eaten one packet and was starting on a second one, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported the baby was taken to a local hospital, where his condition worsened and he died.

If you have or care for young kids, Consumers Union urges you to keep detergent pods out of their reach. If a child does ingest a pod, call the poison-control helpline immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Media contact: David Butler, 202-462-6262dbutler@consumer.org