They’re brightly colored, squishy and bite-size, and may look like candy to young children.
And that’s the problem.
Toddlers often can’t resist popping the small detergent packets for dishwashers and washing machines into their mouths and are having serious health problems as a result.
Nationwide, 485 exposures to laundry detergent packets were reported to poison control centers from May 17 to June 17 of this year, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a report this month. More than 90 percent of the cases involved children 5 or younger.
Children who swallow detergent from the packets often vomit, have wheezing and breathing difficulties and may get very sleepy. Some need to be placed on a ventilator.
Others accidentally squirt liquid detergent into their eyes as they bite into and burst a packet, causing severe eye irritation.
In early May, a 20-month-old North Carolina child swallowed detergent from a punctured packet and within 10 minutes began vomiting profusely, the CDC said. He had trouble breathing, became unresponsive and had seizures. After he was placed on a ventilator, he improved and was discharged from the hospital 36 hours later.
Health officials urge parents to store the packets high on shelves that young children can’t reach.
The packets, introduced to the U.S. market in 2010, contain liquid detergent, or a mixture of liquid and powder, in a clear membrane that dissolves as it comes into contact with water.
The American Cleaning Institute, which represents manufacturers, has been in contact with safety officials and is cooperating with the Consumer Product Safety Commission as it looks into the issue, the organization said in a statement.
The industry is intensifying initiatives to educate the public about keeping the packets out of reach and out of sight of children, including warnings on packaging, the institute said.
Sandy Kleffman, Contra Costa Times