- Laundry detergent packets emerged as the biggest contributor to hospitalizations and serious medical effects in preschool children.
- The detergent pods often resemble candy or juice, and are the perfect size for a young child to grab and put in their mouth.
- Between 2010 - 2015, there were 1,201 laundry detergent pod-related ocular burns occurred among children age 3 to 4 years.
The number of chemical burns to the eye associated with laundry detergent pods increased more than 30-fold among preschool-aged children in the U.S., between 2012 and 2015, according to a study published online by JAMA Ophthalmology
Reports of pod-related injuries, including poisoning, choking, and burns, have suggested that this pattern may be in part due to the products' colorful packaging and candy-like appearance.
‘The number of chemical burns in pre-schoolers associated with laundry detergent pods increased from 12 instances in 2012 to 480 in 2015 and ocular damage has increased to 26% from 0.8%.’
Laundry detergent pods are a convenient, often effective way to do the laundry. The pods or packets are dissolvable pouches containing enough laundry detergent for a single use, but has led to an increase in associated injuries among children.
Gary Smith, MD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio said,"Packets often resemble candy or juice, and are the perfect size for a young child to grab and put in their mouth." Yet the packets differ in chemical composition from non-packet detergents and are more highly concentrated—but easier to ingest quickly.
R. Sterling Haring, D.O., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues examined the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS; run by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) for the period 2010-2015 for eye injuries resulting in chemical burn or conjunctivitis among children age 3 to 4 years (i.e., preschool-aged children).
During this time period, 1,201 laundry detergent pod-related ocular burns occurred among children age 3 to 4 years. The number of chemical burns associated with laundry detergent pods increased from 12 instances in 2012 to 480 in 2015; the proportion of all chemical ocular injuries associated with these devices increased from 0.8 percent of burns in 2012 to 26 percent in 2015.
These injuries most often occurred when children were handling the pods and the contents squirted into one or both of their eyes or when the pod contents leaked onto their hands and a burn resulted from subsequent hand-eye contact.
"Children are smarter than we assume," said Danelle Fisher, MD, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John's Health Center. "When they see something interesting, they will make every effort to get it. The safest precaution is not to have these packets in the households of small children."
The role of laundry detergent pods in eye injuries among preschool-aged children is growing. As with most injuries in this age group, these burns occurred almost exclusively in the home.
In addition to proper storage and use of these devices, prevention strategies might include redesigning packaging to reduce the attractiveness of these products to young children and improving their strength and durability.
- R. Sterling Haring et al., Large increase in eye injuries linked to laundry detergent pods among young children, JAMA Ophthalmology (2017)