Speed Reads

Keep Out of Reach

Study: Thousands of children sickened from ingesting colorful detergent pods

Laundry detergent pods — those water-soluble packets of soap you can drop into your washer — are a no-muss-no-fuss time saver for many parents. But beware: A comprehensive review of the National Poison Data System appearing in the journal Pediatrics finds thousands of curious children have poisoned themselves by eating the bite-sized detergent packets.

Seventeen thousand kids ate, inhaled, or squirted into their eyes the contents of a detergent pod in just the first two years they were on store shelves. That's one accidental poisoning every hour, noted study author Dr. Marcel J. Casavant, who directs the poison center at Nationwide Children's Hospital. While vomiting and respiratory distress were the most common medical complications of pod ingestion, these were hardly akin to "wash your mouth out with soap" discomfort: The study's authors note pod ingestion appears more toxic and dangerous than just swallowing some detergent, for reasons as yet unknown.

Parents, manufacturers and non-profit standards groups are developing new packaging for pods, to make them look less colorful and candy-like. Until then, the old-fashioned way of measuring detergent might save your youngster a trip to the ER.