For families with young children, the convenience of laundry detergent pods is probably not worth the risk. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of chemical burns associated with laundry pods rose more than 30 percent among three and four-year-olds.
Since these single-dose detergent packs hit the market, there are have been over 1,200 reported pod-related injuries including eye burns, choking and poisoning. A study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, found that pre-school age children could easily be injured when handling the colorful pods, possibly mistaken as a toy or candy. Injuries occurred most often when the contents were squirted into their eyes or rubbed into their eyes after handling a leaking pod.
Unlike regular liquid detergent, the pods have a higher concentration of surfactants, a chemical compound used to remove stains—causing the ordinarily safe ingredient to irritate sensitive areas such as the eyes. Some children who experience pod-related eye injuries could suffer long-term vision impairment due to the caustic properties in the detergent.
In response to the study’s results, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) has launched a campaign to spread awareness of possible pod-related injuries. Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Gain and Tide brand laundry pods, also put out an ad campaign to educate parents on pod safety.
If a child does get detergent in their eye, doctors suggest immediately rinsing the eye with cool water for 20 minutes. Lead researcher Dr. R. Sterling Haring says, “Don’t stop and take them to the hospital. Don’t call and wait for an ambulance to show up. Flush the eye with cool water before you do anything else. That’s going to be the deciding factor about long-term outcome for this injury.”