U.S. companies that make laundry detergent pods are voluntarily implementing a new safety standard in an effort to reduce the high rate of accidents involving children.
What led to the changes
The small detergent packets have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and at the same time, they’ve become an increasingly ‘serious health hazard for young children,’ according to Consumer Reports. The group actually decided it would not include certain types of pods on its list of recommended laundry detergents, after poison-control centers across the U.S. received 6,046 reports of accidents involving children five and younger in just the first six months of this year. Several children died, and many were hospitalized, after ingesting or inhaling the pods, or getting the contents of the packet on their skin or in their eyes.
Kids who ingested the pods have suffered from a variety of symptoms, including ‘coughing, choking, vomiting, respiratory distress, loss of consciousness, and if in contact with the eyes, irritation and corneal burns,’according to ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), the international standards organization that released the new guidelines.
More than 35,000 children have had accidents involving detergent pods since the products went mainstream in 2012, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
But after collaborating with consumer-safety advocates, manufacturers are working to make the products safer — and have agreed to a new industry standard. Some companies had already made changes to their packaging, but groups like Consumer Reports and even the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission weren’t convinced it was enough to stop the high rate of accidents.
The new safety standards
The new standards for laundry packets provide specific guidelines for the inner and outer packaging of the small capsules that contain highly concentrated liquid detergent and other chemicals. Manufacturers have agreed to store the pods in opaque containers that are less attractive to kids and more difficult for them to open. The outer material of the capsules themselves will also be strengthened to make them harder to chew on or tear open. Plus, they’ll now taste bad. Each pod will be coated with a bitter flavoring — meant to deter children from continuing to bite into them.
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But while the containers will be more difficult to open, the industry guidelines don’t require companies to make them child-resistant, and that’s a concern for Nancy Cowles, executive director at Kids In Danger, a nonprofit group that advocates for children’s safety issues.
“We are talking absolute numbers—that’s what we want to see a drop in,” Cowles told The Wall Street Journal. “What’s important is how many children are being injured, and not the rate of injuries relative to how much companies are selling.”
ASTM says it expects the new standards to take effect shortly after a final approval on September 15.