The Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) reports there are over two million poison exposure cases in the United States every year. Here in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Poison Center (WPC) handled 36,445 cases, or about 100 calls per day, in 2016 (the latest year for which statistics are available).
National Poison Prevention Week
March 18-24, 2018, is National Poison Prevention Week. Ever since President Kennedy proclaimed the first National Poison Prevention Week in 1962, the annual event held the third week of March has served as “an opportunity to highlight the dangers of poisonings for people of all ages and promote community involvement in poisoning prevention,” according to the HRSA.
Focus on Detergent Pod Poisonings
This year, first responders and poison centers around the country are focused on the dangerous trend of children and teenagers ingesting single-use detergent pods, including Tide Pods, Purex Ultra Packs, and others. Through January 31, 2018, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (“AAPCC”), poison centers nationwide have reported 606 cases of children five and under being exposed to detergent pods. Exposure among teenagers is also on the rise>, with 160 reported cases since January 1 of this year.
According to the WPC, detergent pods are attractive to young children because their colorful appearance and squishy feel resemble candy or toys. The trend of exposure among teenagers, on the other hand, seems to be due to teens being encouraged to chew on laundry pods as a dare, or “challenge,” circulating on the internet and social media.
Ingesting detergent pods is very dangerous. The WPC warns that “sucking on, ingesting or squeezing” a detergent pod can cause “protracted vomiting, wheezing and gasping”; “extreme sleepiness”; “breathing issues, including needing a ventilator to assist ventilation”; and “eye exposures, sometimes resulting in severe irritation.” The AAPCC adds that the potential effects of these conditions can include “seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.”
To prevent detergent pod poisonings, the AAPCC advises parents to “always keep detergent containers closed, sealed and stored up high, out of the reach of children,” and to “follow the instructions on the product label.” And, of course, as Tide itself warned in a January 12, 2018 Tweet responding to the worrying trend among teenagers, “eating a Tide POD is a BAD IDEA.”
Call the Wisconsin Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) immediately if you suspect a detergent pod exposure has occurred. The WPC call center can also answer questions or concerns you may have about detergent pods or any other potential poisons, and you can also find a wealth of information on the WPC website