They are bright and attractive, and they fit in the palm of your hand. To children, the new laundry detergent packets look like pretty candy. So much so, apparently, that their introduction on the market has been associated with a marked increase in cases of childhood poisoning in the United States.
Over the winter, several companies introduced these little laundry packets, whose added convenience is appealing to consumers. American health authorities grew concerned in late March, when the first cases of poisoning were reported. According to the latest estimates, poison control centers around the U.S. are dealing with an average of ten cases of laundry detergent poisoning per day, with a total of more than 1,200 so far this year. There have been no fatalities to date, but at least eleven children have had to be put on respirators. Experts are unsure why these packets seem to be more toxic than the regular powdered or liquid detergents. Children who have bitten into the new packets have suffered severe nausea and vomiting, respiratory distress and metabolic abnormalities.
Canadian statistics have not yet emerged, but it is likely that the frequency and type of poisoning will follow the same upward curve in Canada following the introduction of these products on the market. Detergent companies have said they will be making changes to their laundry packet packaging in order to prevent this type of accident.
If you have young children at home, remember that all household cleaning products should be kept out of reach and out of sight of children. The best place to keep them is in a cabinet that can be locked with a key or security system. Do not underestimate children’s creative capacity to reach an object they covet!