What is the laundry pod challenge taking over the internet?

Dangerous online fad dares teenagers to ingest laundry detergent pods

Laundry pod

YouTube is leading a crackdown on the so-called Laundry Pod Challenge after US poison centres reported a spate of incidents involving teenagers ingesting laundry detergent.

In the past, warnings about misuse of laundry pods have been directed at those caring for toddlers, who have been known to mistake the brightly-coloured packets for sweets.

However, those warnings are now also being directed at teenagers and their parents over a viral social media fad in which young people film themselves biting into a laundry pod and often encourage others to do the same.

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Jokes about the temptation to bite into the colourful pods have existed for years on social media, says Snopes. For most, the jokes were nothing more than an example of the internet’s quirky sense of humour - but “the actual practice of biting into Tide pods appears to have intensified” over the New Year.

Often called the Tide Pod Challenge in the US, in reference to a brand of laundry detergent, videos of the Laundry Pod Challenge have racked up hundreds of thousands of views.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers has said that it had dealt with 39 calls in the first fortnight of 2018 regarding teenagers who had willingly ingested laundry pods, compared to 53 cases in the whole of 2017.

The association’s executive director, Stephen Kaminski said that ingesting laundry detergent “poses a real threat to the health of individuals” and blamed the recent spate of incidents on the Laundry Pod Challenge.

“We have seen a large spike in single-load laundry packet exposures among teenagers since these videos have been uploaded,” he said.

Google, whose parent company also owns YouTube, has announced that videos of the Laundry Pod Challenge videos will be deleted from the platform.

Consuming even small amounts of laundry detergent can be hazardous to health, says CNN. Exposure to the concentrated cleaning chemicals can cause second and third-degree burns to the nose, mouth and throat, as well as “difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness... seizures, fluid in the lungs, respiratory arrest, coma or death”.

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