To toddlers and even elementary children, the new detergent packaging may look like soft toys or candy. That attraction has had medically serious consequences.
“Some toddlers who chew on the packets and swallow the concentrated detergent have become very ill and have required hospitalization, some in pediatric intensive care,” says Keith Boesen, PharmD, director of the poison center. “Some have inhaled soap from the packets into their lungs. Others have gotten the product in their eyes and suffered significant eye irritation.”
Since March 20, the Tucson-based poison center, located at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, has received 22 calls about youngsters mistakenly eating the detergent or getting the cleaning agent into their eyes. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center serves all areas of the state except Maricopa County, and calls about the detergent packets have come from many communities.
Poison centers across the country have long received reports of children getting into laundry powders or liquids; for the most part, those incidents resulted in mild or even no symptoms. But misadventures with the new small packets seem to be different, Boesen says. These cases often result in extreme vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some youngsters have had to be put on a hospital ventilator.
“We aren’t certain what in the product is making the children so sick,” Boesen says. “To reduce the number of poisonings, our national association has asked manufacturers to make the containers the detergent packets are sold in harder for youngsters to open. But the best precaution is for parents and caregivers always to make sure the laundry detergent packs are not where young kids can reach them, not even for a moment.”
Single-use packets designed for dishwashers do not appear to be causing such severe symptoms, Boesen says. Nonetheless, like all cleaning products, keep the dishwasher packets well away from small hands.
Should an accidental exposure occur, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.
About the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center
The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy provides free and confidential poison control and medication information to the public and health-care professionals. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One of 57 centers that make up the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the Tucson center serves all of Arizona except Maricopa County. Call 1-800-222-1222 from any location to reach the poison center nearest you.
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