Legislation Aims To Make It Harder For Kids To Snack On Yummy-Looking Detergent Pods

Image courtesy of Both the House and Senate introduced legislation today that would create standards regarding the packaging of detergent packets.
Both the House and Senate introduced legislation today that would create standards regarding the packaging of detergent packets.

Both the House and Senate introduced legislation today that would create standards regarding the packaging of detergent packets.

Federal safety agencies and poison control centers have continuously expressed concern that the ever-popular, and convenient detergent pods are extremely dangerous to children, with more than 17,000 kids being poisoned by ingesting the detergent since they came on the scene three years ago. Today, the House and Senate took steps to ensure the single-serve detergent packs no long threaten childrens’ safety by introducing legislation that would enact stricter packaging standards for liquid detergent.

The Detergent Poisoning And Child Safety (PACS) Act, introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and California Representative Jackie Speier, directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue safety standards within the next 18 months that would protect children under five years of age from the risks of injury or illness caused by exposure to liquid detergent packets.

If passed, the legislation requires the CPSC standards to include special child-resistant packaging on the outer container and special design and color restrictions to make the pods less attractive to children. Standards must also address the composition of packets to include clear warning labels stating the consequences of exposure and severity of hazards, as well as what to do avoid injury.

“These packets must be subject to the same robust safety measures and warning labels that we already expect on detergent, medicine, and similar household products,” Rep. Speier said in a statement. “Toxic, concentrated detergent should not look like candy. It is irresponsible to market a product that is so unsafe to children.”

Sen. Durbin says that while parents should continue to keep laundry detergent packed out of reach of children, the new legislation will address the raising number of poisoning head on.

“Making the design and color of packets less appealing to children, making safer, child-resistant packaging and adding proper warning labels are common-sense protections for consumers similar to those for countless other household products,” he said in a statement. “We can still have convenience without sacrificing safety for children and families.”

Consumer advocates, including our colleagues at Consumers Union, were quick to back the proposal that would become the safety standard for detergent makers.

“We applaud the lawmakers who introduced this important legislation to help make these products safer,” Ellen Bloom, senior director of federal policy for CU, said in a statement [PDF]. “It only takes a few seconds for a child to mistake a packet for candy, grab it, burst it, and be exposed to the packet’s contents.”

CU has previously pressed manufacturers and policymakers to make detergent pods safer and urged parents to keep the packets out of reach of children.

“The super-concentrated detergent inside can make a child terribly sick in just a few minutes,” Bloom said. “Liquid detergent packets are getting more and more popular, but the protections for safety are completely inadequate, despite the known hazards.”

When detergent pods first came on the market they were sold in clear plastic containers that made their colorful contents especially attractive to curious youngsters. Since then, many manufacturers have since switched to opaque containers, but concern about the pods remains.

However, those changes haven’t been enough to make a difference in the number of children attracted to the pods.

Rep. Speier cites in her announcement of the new legislation a case in which a 7-month-old boy died after swallowing the laundry packet.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 11,711 children under the age of five were exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent packets last year.

In a majority of those cases, children experienced adverse reactions, including vomiting, coughing or choking and respiratory distress after they were exposed to the liquid either by swallowing, breathing in or getting liquid in their eyes.

Back in November, the National Poison Data System released a study finding that on average one child is hurt by laundry pods every day.

The NPDS also reported that during the time of its study, 6000 children were seen in emergency rooms, 750 were hospitalized, and over 300 required intensive care.