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Laundry pods still a serious safety risk for kids and people with dementia, study warns

Children still being poisoned by laundry pods
Children still being poisoned by laundry pods, study shows 01:42

New York — Liquid laundry detergent packets are popular for their convenience, but a new study shows they remain a dangerous attraction to young children and some people who have dementia, reports CBS New York.

The pods, which can be poisonous if ingested, can look like candy to a child or someone with dementia. The combination has resulted in many accidental poisonings despite years of warnings.

New research finds U.S. poison control centers received nearly 73,000 calls involving liquid laundry detergent packets between 2012 and 2017.

In 2015, a voluntary product safety standard was put in place for manufacturers and a public awareness campaign about the dangers was started.

The study in the journal Pediatrics shows there was only an 18% decrease in exposures and in hospitalizations due to those exposures in children under 6 from 2015 to 2017. Before 2015, the number of exposures more than doubled each year.

In a statement, the American Cleaning Institute, a group that represents the U.S. cleaning products industry, said the standard adopted in 2015 was working. "As the number of people who are using liquid laundry packets has significantly increased, accidents are disproportionately decreasing," the group said. "The data show an overall 53 percent decrease in accident rates among children under 6 years old and an 86 percent decrease in major accidents among children under 6 years old."

In an editorial accompanying the study, the journal's editor in chief, Dr. Lewis First, calls the decrease in exposures "modest" and said, "Unfortunately, in individuals over 6 years of age, the number and rate of exposures continued to increase."

New warnings about laundry detergent pods 02:12

Eight deaths have been associated with ingesting the packets, CBS New York reports, adding that two were children under a year old and six were adults with a history of dementia.

First said in the editorial that, "Laundry pods and their exposure risks have not gone away — and the clean look this study provides on the ongoing dangers they demonstrate — may be just what we need to advocate even more strongly for better safety standards for these products."

Henry Spiller, the director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, told CBS New York, "If you have young children or you have at-risk older seniors, these really shouldn't be in your house. There are alternatives that are just as good for your laundry, the powders and the liquid detergents."

The study also finds eye injuries from the popular products are increasing in adults. Some 700 wound up in emergency rooms last year.

"They pop, and they squirt up into your face, and if you get it in your eye it can be a significant injury," Spiller said.

"We'd like them to individually wrap the laundry detergent packets, and we have seen dishwasher detergent packets come individually wrapped. From a manufacturing standpoint, it's not a big step for them to individually wrap the laundry detergent packets and we would like them to take that step. Right now, it's voluntary, and they haven't."

Researchers said more study is needed to determine how to make the packet contents less toxic.

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