Laundry and dishwashing capsules & “PODS” are all the rage. Frankly, I love them. They’re less messy, take up far less space in the cabinet, and enticing to use. Throw them in the washer without a single errant drop. They’re pretty to look at, too.

That’s the trouble though.

These PODS and capsules look more like Halloween candy than laundry detergent. But this soap [eye candy] poses a unique and dangerous risk. The film that forms the capsule is designed to dissolve quickly. Toddlers are at risk, as small children explore with their mouths not only their hands. Toddlers and preschoolers may be both drawn to the visual appeal of these concentrated capsules and to their balloon-like texture and squishy feel. I wrote (did a video) about this earlier, when WA State issued a warning to all ER doctors.

Concerns for ingestions are continuing here (nearly 3000 injuries were reported in US children between January and August, 2012) and around the world. Highly concentrated laundry detergent can erode tissues, cause swelling, and cause burns to the mouth, throat, airway, and eyes of children who touch, break open or ingest them. The majority of injuries from PODS and capsules have been due to ingestion, but there are reports of many eye injuries as well.

Curiosity rules a toddler’s exploration. Judgment lags way behind.

New information released last week in the UK helps categorize the concerns. The National Poison Information Center shared a brief where they detailed that capsules and PODS were the most commonly reported ingestions in young children over a 14-month period. A group of physicians at The Royal Hospital For Sick Children in Glasgow also authored an academic letter detailing their concerns, reporting on 5 children who had been admitted and cared for in the hospital after ingesting (eating) the PODS/capsules. Their letter highlighted:

Ingestion Injury From Detergent PODS & Capsules:

  • 5 children, between 10 and 22 months of age, were admitted to the hospital with serious injuries.
  • Injuries for the 5 children included serious swelling and damage to the throat and airway (arytenoids, glottis, supraglottis, esophagus, gastro-esophageal junction). Children demanding hospitalization varied in the care needed. One was managed with steroids and antibiotics alone, while the other 4 children demanded intensive care. Four of the 5 children needed breathing tubes, 2 of whom were on the ventilator for a week.
  • Fortunately, all children recovered from their ingestions.

Protecting Children From Detergent PODS/Capsules:

  • Young children are ruled by curiosity. Make sure that capsules and PODS are up and out of reach.
  • Don’t display them due to their visual appeal.
  • Don’t allow young children to help use the laundry or dishwashing capsules. Becoming familiar will likely cause them to want to touch, explore, and possibly gnaw on these capsules.
  • Until containers selling these products have a child safety lock/top, inform your friends and caregivers about the risk to young children.
  • With any ingestion, no matter what the size, call poison control immediately 1-800-222-1222.
  • Read more about it (including my interview) at US News & World Report or here at WebMD.
  • Print out this Poison Control fact sheet for your daycare or pediatricians’ office.