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Laundry pods and the threat they pose to small children

We've all seen them in stores: those brightly colored pouches filled with laundry detergent, specifically designed to make the process of doing laundry easier. But contained in those pouches is a mixture of concentrated detergent that, according to its own packaging, can be harmful if swallowed. So why then, some may wonder, do these pouches look so much like candy?

For a lot of parents, this particular question weighs heavily on their minds because small children can easily mistake laundry pods for food. For starters, some pods are sold in resealable bags that look like food pouches, explains a Wall Street Journal article written this month. Add the fact that most pods are brightly colored, it's no wonder children confuse them for something they can put in their mouths. 

The risk to children

When a child first bites into a laundry pod, a WebMD article explains, their mouths are almost immediately filled with the liquid detergent, which is oftentimes highly concentrated and incredibly toxic. When this happens, children most likely will start to cough or choke, resulting in potential inhalation of the detergent into the child's lungs.

The chemicals may also get into the child's eyes and on their skin, which may cause irritation and even burns. If swallowed, the detergent can cause gastrointestinal problems that likely will require medical attention. And in some cases, death is possible.

Just in 2013 and 2014, poison control centers in our country received more than 37,000 calls regarding incidents involving children and detergent pods - both laundry and dishwasher packets. Of the cases reported those years, two cases resulted in a child's death while roughly two dozen resulted in life-threatening poisonings.

What are manufacturers doing to help?

Some manufacturers, like Procter & Gamble Co., the maker of the popular laundry detergents Gain and Tide, have taken steps to reduce the number of accidental poisonings by making their packaging more child-resistant and putting a bitter tasting substance on the outside of the pods.

Though these steps could help reduce a child's risk of ingesting a laundry pod, it's worth noting that many manufacturers have been resistant to make further changes that could decrease this risk even further.

What should parents do?

Parents can take active steps to protect their children by maintaining watchful supervision and making sure laundry pods are out of a small child's reach. If a child should happen to bite into a laundry pod, parents should immediately contact their physician or a poison control center.

In some cases, the manufacturer may be held liable for its negligence and compensation may be awarded to the victim of a laundry pod incident. In these types of cases, parents are encouraged to seek legal representation in order to file a products liability claim, which can recover damages for injury and even wrongful death.

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