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Laundry pod safety
27 Mar 2017

As concentrated laundry detergent pods have become more common, so have chemical eye injuries among young children, according to a recent U.S. study. The small, colourful packets of detergent were responsible for more than a quarter of cases of 3- and 4-year-olds admitted to emergency rooms with chemical eye burns in 2015.

"Chemical eye burns are potentially very serious injuries and these laundry detergent pods are a very concentrated form of an extremely hazardous chemical," said Dr. Sterling Haring, a physician and researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "They may not look as dangerous as a bottle of bleach, but we need to treat them like we would any other dangerous chemical, and that means keeping it up and away and out of sight.”

Consumer's Union, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, says the pods can be mistaken for candy by very young children and it has petitioned regulators and manufacturers to change the product in ways that make it less appealing to kids and the containers more child-proof. Most of the eye injuries occurred at home and resulted from children breaking the pod itself, and either having detergent squirt directly into one or both eyes, or getting it on their hands and then touching their eyes.

The primary problem with laundry pods is not with negligent parenting, but with a product design that does not consider children's safety, said Dr. Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance in Columbus, Ohio. "Packets often resemble candy or juice, and are the perfect size for a young child to grab and put in their mouth. We recommend that households where children younger than 6 years of age live or visit use traditional (liquid or powder) laundry detergent," Smith said.