Latches to make laundry detergent packs safer

Doctors across the country say children are confusing tiny, brightly colored laundry detergent packets with candy and swallowing them. Nearly 250 cases have been reported to poison control centers. Enlarge photo

Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Doctors across the country say children are confusing tiny, brightly colored laundry detergent packets with candy and swallowing them. Nearly 250 cases have been reported to poison control centers.

DALLAS – The maker of Tide Pods will create a new double-latch lid to deter children from accessing and eating the brightly colored detergent packets, a company spokesman said Friday.

Procter & Gamble spokesman Paul Fox said the Cincinnati-based company plans to create a new lid on tubs of Tide Pods “in the next couple of weeks.” The company continues to study the design of the package, Fox said.

Doctors say children sometimes swallow Tide Pods and similar laundry products, around 1 inch cubes that are meant to be dropped into a washing machine in place of liquid or powder detergent. Nearly 250 cases nationally have been reported to poison control centers this year, a figure that’s expected to rise. No deaths have been reported.

Almost all of the cases have been reported since March, when companies began to market the packets. Some children have been hospitalized for several days.

Texas reported 71 instances of exposure this year, all but one in March or later. Missouri reported 25 cases related to the packets, and Illinois reported 26.

Some children might be confusing the tubs of colorfully swirled detergent packets for bowls of candy, said Bruce D. Anderson, director of operations at the Maryland Poison Center. Maryland has reported 15 cases this year.

“Kids are very bright and will find a way to get to something that they want to get to,” he said.

Dr. Michael Buehler of the Carolinas Poison Center said Tide’s lid could make a difference.

“In a nutshell, yes, it would be good, but I don’t know enough,” Buehler said. “It’s too early to tell.”

Spokesmen for Purex, All and Arm & Hammer did not immediately return requests for comment about whether their companies also planned changes. Kathryn Corbally, a spokeswoman for Sun Products Corp., said the company is evaluating its packaging.

The packets appear to cause more severe symptoms than typical detergent, possibly because a single packet has a full cup’s worth of detergent or because the packets might activate differently.

In suburban Philadelphia, a 17-month-old boy climbed onto a dresser and popped a detergent package in his mouth. The boy vomited, became drowsy and started coughing, said Dr. Fred Henretig of the Poison Control Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The boy was put on a ventilator for a day and hospitalized for a week.