Researchers warn against using detergent gel pods

A US study released this week is recommending that parents stop using dish-washing and laundry detergent gel pods, which have caused poisoning in young children.

November 11, 2014 22:55
2 minute read.
A doctor stands with stethoscope in this undated handout photo.

A doctor stands with stethoscope in this undated handout photo.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A US study released this week is recommending that parents stop using dish-washing and laundry detergent gel pods, which have caused poisoning in young children.

While Israel’s National Poison Control Center and the Economy Ministry’s head of standards have persuaded manufacturers and importers of such packets to make changes that will reduce the risk of young children swallowing them, there has been no move to halt sales of these products.

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The pods are meant as a convenience product that users merely toss into dishwashers and washing machines rather than having to measure out detergent.

However, the study by researchers at US Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that in the past two years, America’s poison control centers received reports of 17,230 children below the age of six swallowing, inhaling or otherwise being exposed to chemicals in the pods – equivalent to nearly one young child every hour. A total of 769 young children were hospitalized during that period, making for an average of one per day; one child died. Children up to age two accounted for nearly two-thirds of cases.

Nearly half of the children vomited after laundry detergent pod exposure. Other common effects were coughing or choking, eye pain or irritation, drowsiness or lethargy, and red eye or conjunctivitis.

The poison control center at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center has reported that so far in Israel, some 10 children have “made contact” with the packets but were not seriously harmed.

A leading manufacturer of laundry detergent pods in the US began changing its packaging in the spring of 2013, introducing opaque containers and adding latches and a warning label to them. However, many manufacturers continue to sell such pods in see-through packages with zip-tops, or other easily opened containers.

In Israel, companies selling the packets have made the external packaging opaque rather than transparent, so young children would not be attracted to their bright colors and try to break the bags and swallow the contents. They have also pasted warning stickers on the packages.

Avital Epel-Pinkas, who is in charge of public policy at Beterem (the national center for child safety and health), told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that she worries not only about the liquid detergent, but about “all [poisonous] chemicals that adults leave under the kitchen sink and elsewhere.... Oven cleaners, bleach and other cleaning materials should not be left where they are accessible to young children; they have to be locked away.”

The Haifa poison control center gets over 15,000 calls a year, many of them urgent, about possible poisonings.

Epel-Pinkas added that although the government had approved a program to prevent child home accidents, it had not yet funded it.

Beterem has set up a meeting with longtime Economy Ministry standards officer Grisha Deitch’s replacement to discuss further action on the pods. Epel-Pinkas recommended putting out informational videos in the online and social media about the danger.

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