Healthy Living: Laundry Pods- An Unexpected Hazard 

By: Dr. Amy MoviusA reality of our increasingly hectic world is the ongoing availability of new conveniences, large and small, directed at “making life easier”. One such – seemingly small – example is laundry detergent pods. Instead of measuring/pouring liquid or powder into a washing machine, a premeasured detergent “pod” can be popped in and, presto, the laundry is good to go.There can be unintentional effects of new amenities and so is the case for laundry pods. Small children, especially less than 5 yrs., have been known to ingest them, presumably because they are colorfully attractive and a size and shape suggestive of candy. Though the membrane of these pods is very sturdy when handled, it readily dissolves when moist – think saliva. When a child puts a laundry pod in their mouth the membrane begins to melt and the pod easily bursts.Laundry pods were first marketed in Europe in 2001 and here in N. America in 2010. The cumulative experience over these more than 10 years has revealed that toxicity from these products is no small matter. The symptoms of detergent pod ingestion have consistently been reported more severe than those of “non-pod” laundry detergent ingestion. Add to that a study from the United Kingdom in 2009-2010 showing that laundry pods were the most common accidental household cleaning product ingestion, and the scope of the problem becomes clearer.So what happens when a pod is ingested? Vomiting often occurs within minutes. This can be followed by difficulty breathing from swelling of the upper airways (mouth/throat) and/or irritation lower in the lungs. Breathing may be affected to the point that a ventilator is needed to breathe for the child until this inflammation subsides. Lastly, for unclear reasons children may become very lethargic or “comatose” following pod ingestion and can require a ventilator temporarily for this reason as well. Eye and skin exposure have also been reported, though ingestion is most common.Prevention is the best tool we have. Awareness of the appeal these pods have to young children is an important first step. As such, these products should be kept both out of sight and out of reach. If a child does have a laundry pod exposure, call poison control or seek immediate medical care if the child has already developed symptoms. References:1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Hazards Associated with Laundry Detergent Pods – United States, May – June 2012. MMWR October 19, 2012. 2. Williams et al, Exposure to Liquid Detergent capsules: A Study Undertaken by the UK National Poisons Information Service. Clinical Toxicology 20123. Fraser et al, Liquid Detergent Capsule Ingestion in Children: An Increasing Trend. Letter, Arch Dis Child, November 20124. Wood and Thompson, Liquitabs – a Thorough and Comprehensive Review of the UK National Data. Clinical Toxicology 2009