Consumer Reports, the world’s largest and most trusted non-profit consumer organization, today announced that it would no longer recommend liquid laundry detergent pods because of their continued high-rate of accidental poisonings of young children. The organization now strongly urges households where children younger than six are ever present to refrain from purchasing them.
This is a bold move taken by Consumer Reports, evidenced by the fact that they have only retracted a previous recommendation once before, in 2005 for sport-utility vehicles that failed the federal rollover test and didn’t have electronic stability control.
Today’s announcement is also an emotional one for me as the mother of a child that accidentally ingested a liquid laundry pod nearly a year ago, requiring intubation and a stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Watching my eight-month-old baby daughter, Cate, intubated before my eyes was truly horrific and something forever ingrained in my memory.
From the Consumer Report story on our family:
Sept. 3, 2014, was laundry day at the home of Jill and Peter Koziol, who had recently moved from California to New York City with their two young daughters, 2-year-old Clare and 8-month-old Cate. The family was living in an apartment building with a separate laundry room, so out of convenience they’d made the switch from bottled detergent to Tide Pods.
Jill pulled a pod from its container, which was stored on an upper shelf in a closet, and set it on top of a tall laundry hamper. “I’d always heard that life happens in a split second, and it did for me that day,” Jill says, recalling the instant when she turned to help Clare clean up some toys just as newly mobile Cate pulled herself onto the hamper and bit into the pod. “I heard her gag and turned to see the packet drop from her mouth,” she says.
Jill accepts responsibility for leaving a household cleaner within reach of her children. But she thinks the events that followed reveal a systemwide confusion. First there was the call to poison control, whose operator treated the situation like any laundry detergent exposure, basically advising a wait-and-see approach. When Cate began vomiting, Jill called 911 and within 20 minutes Cate was at the pediatric ER. Again, the doctors and nurses approached the situation as they would a routine detergent exposure.
Cate did appear to stabilize. But 30 minutes later she went into respiratory distress, marked by severe wheezing, gagging, and drooling. Jill watched as her baby was intubated and transferred to an intensive care unit, where she would spend the next two days. Cate’s breathing eventually normalized, and a gastrointestinal scope revealed no damage to her esophagus. “We’re very blessed,” Jill says. But other children have not been so lucky.
The moment I saw my seemingly lifeless daughter’s body intubated was the moment a consumer advocate was born in me. I do not abdicate my responsibly as a parent and take the role very seriously, priding myself on a cautious, safety-first approach to parenting. I take ownership and responsibility as a mother for leaving the detergent pod anywhere within reach and will forever second-guess that split second decision. But what it did teach me was that it can happen to anyone.
As a mother, I am grateful to Consumer Reports for raising awareness of this issue by deciding to no longer recommend liquid laundry pods.
As they explained: “We recognize the role parents and caregivers play in keeping children safe, but we believe the unique risks posed by liquid laundry pods warrant this action, at least until the adoption of tougher safety measures leads to a meaningful drop in injuries.”
After what our family endured, I have served for the last year as an active and vocal participant in the development of a voluntary safety standard for pods led by ASTM International; I remain committed to educating parents about their dangers. I applaud Consumer Report’s efforts to educate consumers about the unique risks posed by the pods. I am specifically grateful that these efforts will help:
1) Make parents more aware of the dangers of liquid laundry pods. In the first six months of 2015 alone, poison-control centers nationwide have received 6,046 reports of children five-years-old and younger ingesting or inhaling pods, or getting pod contents on their skin or in their eyes. This is a pace set to pass the 2014 total of 11,714.
2) Highlight the need for greater training of medical personnel. Poison-control centers and ER personnel are typically the first responders in a poisoning and based on my personal experience, need to be better educated and trained on how liquid laundry pods are different than traditional liquid or powder laundry detergents. Many times, they can cause serious issues including esophageal burns, scar tissue, airway challenges, and eyesight issues that require urgent medical treatment.
3) Continue to challenge manufacturers to consider reasonable methods to help prevent incidents. Efforts including voluntary standards are underway, bringing consumer awareness to the dangers, but more still can be done.
As a mother, I know it’s my responsibility to help keep my children safe. That’s why I’m so grateful to Consumer Reports for recognizing the risks of liquid laundry pods, and for the impact that their decision today will have in making the home a little bit safer for all of our children.