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Liquid laundry packets pose health risk to children

A Tide laundry detergent pod is seen in this file photo. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned doctors about the risk of children ingesting the colorful pods.

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Last Updated Jun 24, 2015 6:03 PM EDT

As liquid laundry packets become more popular in the United States, accidental poisonings involving children are also a growing concern, according to a new warning from Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization aimed at preventing injuries among kids.

From 2012 through May 2015, the American Association of Poison Control Centers report more than 33,000 calls -- about 30 children per day -- regarding incidents involving liquid laundry packets. And a 2014 study published Pediatrics found that more than 700 children aged 5 and under were hospitalized or experienced serious side effects as a result of these packets. The children most impacted were 1- and 2-year-olds.

Young kids are at a particular risk, experts say, because they may mistake the laundry packets for sweet treats. "The biggest thing about these packets is their colorful nature," Dr. Deb Lonzer, Chair of Community Pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, told CBS News. "If you look at them, you can see that the liquid inside really looks similar to some kind of candy that you could squeeze out of a pouch. A kid who doesn't know any better could very easily try to chew on it."

"Young children are explorers, and as they develop, often learn by touch and by putting things into their mouths," Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, said in a statement. "With the increasing popularity of liquid laundry packets, it's especially important to make parents aware of the importance of keeping them out of the reach and hands of children."

The organization hopes to spread awareness about the potential dangers of liquid laundry packets and offers tips for parents to keep their kids safe.

"Fortunately, the solution to protect children in the home against potential poisoning is simple," said Carr. "It's making sure that families and caregivers know what to do to ensure a serious incident doesn't happen in the home, and what to do if help is needed."

To prevent poisoning, the detergent packets -- also called pods -- should be kept out of children's reach and sight. "The best thing to do with anything that's poisonous is put it where kids can't go," Lonzer said. "They shouldn't be able to stand on a chair or the dryer to get to it. It needs to be well-marked on a shelf where kids can't reach."

Safe Kids Worldwide, which partnered with Tide and Gain on this initiative, also recommends storing the pods in their original container, which should be tightly closed.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning that urged doctors to be aware of the risk of poisoning from laundry packets. According to the CDC, common symptoms of ingesting the liquid detergent include vomiting, coughing or choking, drowsiness, and nausea. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports children can experience loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, severe eye burns, and temporary vision loss.

Lonzer said swallowing the detergent can also result in severe burns of the throat and esophagus.

If a child gets into one of the packets, call the Poison Help number immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

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