The number of kids who suffered eye injures from laundry pods rose more than 30% between 2012 and 2015, according to a study published by JAMA Ophthalmology on February 2.
Eye injuries from laundry pods sent 480 preschool-aged children to the emergency room in 2015, up from just 12 reports in 2012. More than 1,200 children suffered chemical eyes injuries over three years.
Kids are being injured when they squeeze or chew the “pods” and squirt highly-concentrated laundry detergent into their eyes. In other reports, detergent leaks onto their hands and they rub it in their eyes.
Chemical burns in the eyes are hard to treat and sometimes cause permanent vision loss or blindness. Younger children are more vulnerable because smaller amounts of chemicals can cause burns.
Laundry pod injuries, poisonings, choking, and chemical burns are nothing new. When the first products hit the market in 2012, they were sold in a container that looked like a candy jar with a flimsy flip-top lid. Children could not resist going after the brightly-colored, sweet-smelling, bite-sized, squishy packets.
Tide Pods and most other products have been re-designed with opaque containers and stronger lids, but accidental exposures are still reported every day. Lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer, Proctor & Gamble, on behalf of more than a dozen people who were injured.
Despite packaging changes and warning labels, seven deaths were reported in kids and intellectually-disabled adults in 2014 and 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. The authors of the JAMA study recommended:
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.”
The good news is that the industry has already made big changes. The American Cleaning Institute has voluntarily strengthened safety standards for laundry pods — with stronger lids, squeeze-resistant pods, and a bitter-tasting substance on the outside of the pod — and said 99% of the products would be in compliance by the end of 2016.