QLD: Dissolving dangers - wash with care and keep pods out of reach

13 May 2016

Families with young children spend a great deal of time washing and everyone looks for the quickest way to do this chore. That’s one reason for the increasing popularity of pods for laundry detergent and dishwashers.

The product can be a convenient way to do the laundry but they can also be a serious health hazard for young children. Each year, increasing numbers of children eat or inhale the contents of brightly coloured packets of laundry detergent, mistaking them for lollies or teething toys.

When curious kids find their way into regular liquid or powder laundry detergent, the result is often nothing worse than an upset stomach. Laundry detergent pods though present more serious risks. The packs dissolve quickly when in contact with water, wet hands or saliva. As the liquid is highly concentrated, swallowing, or biting into a pod can cause skin irritations, vomiting, lethargy and gasping. In some reported cases, children have required medical attention and hospitalisation for loss of consciousness. Eye contact has also resulted in reports of injury, including severe irritation and temporary loss of vision.

Nationally, there have been more than 280 incidents reported of children aged six or under becoming ill after putting the pods in their mouths or being exposed to liquid laundry detergent capsules since 2011.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) supports the ACCC’s work with industry to develop safer packaging options that make containers harder for curious toddlers to open. “A product intended to make your clothes clean and bright should not lead to a parent having to call the Poisons Information Centre because their child is in distress.”

The OFT has some simple safety advice for parents and caregivers to follow to minimise the risk of children coming into contact with laundry pods and other products:

  • Never let your children handle or play with the pods. They dissolve quickly when in contact with water, wet hands or saliva.
  • Always put products away in a secure location after use, out of the reach of children and pets. Do not store products on top of the washer and dryer.
  • Clean up any spills and immediately wash your hands and any items you use to pour or measure products.
  • Read and follow all instructions on the product label. Know where the safety information is located on the label and what to do in case an injury occurs.
  • If your child does put one of these pods in their mouth, rinse as much of the detergent as possible from their mouth and seek immediate medical advice.
  • If the product comes into contact with your child’s eyes, immediately flush their eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical advice.
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for further advice if you suspect your child has swallowed any of the detergent.

“Life can change in a split second and while you may not think that your little one would swallow a pod, or can climb to reach the container, don't take the chance,” Mr Bauer said.

“A good tip is to have the Poisons Information Centre’s phone number handy at all times – the number is 13 11 26.

“We recognise the role parents and caregivers play in keeping children safe and want this information to serve as a reminder of how important it is to keep these products out of reach.”

Contact details

General enquiries: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)

Media contact: 07 3247 5968 or 07 3247 5965

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