Infant death highlights need for precautions using laundry detergent pods

by Erica Surman, R.N., Beaumont Children’s Hospital Pediatric Trauma Coordinator

(Photo credit:

(Photo credit:

The recent death of a 7-month-old boy who died after eating a laundry detergent packet in Florida highlights the dangers officials had been warning of since the products reached such high levels of popularity. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “If confirmed, his could be the first reported death in the nation tied to the detergent packets, though so far this year alone, more than 5,000 children have been sickened by them.”

As a mom, I was initially drawn to the detergent pods because of the pre-measured convenience, without the hassle of heavy jugs of liquid. The laundry pod packaging includes a clear plastic bowl in which the shiny, colorful pods are visible. I hesitated in the grocery store; I remembered reading stories about children who had mistaken the laundry pods for candy, but I had purchased dishwasher detergent pods for years without any issues!

When I went home to do further research, I found that many children seem to be drawn to the bright colors, and shiny exterior of that pod. This packaging is almost “candy bowl shaped “, and unlike the under sink cabinet, most parents do not lock up their laundry soap.

According to American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), 5,753 kids 5 and younger have been exposed to single-load laundry packets from Jan. 1 through July 31 of this year. That number is almost as high as the total for 2012 – which was 6,231. The compact nature of the pack itself is thought to be one of the reasons that they are so dangerous. They are created to be highly concentrated, which intensifies and expedites the symptoms.

A side-by-side comparison of a laundry determent pod and some gummy candy.

A side-by-side comparison of a laundry detergent pod and some gummy candy.

In addition to the recent death due to ingesting the detergent packet, the following scenarios have been shared by the AAPCC to describe the context and resulting injury of the laundry pod exposure:

  •  Ten minutes after a 20-month-old swallowed a laundry detergent packet; the child developed profuse vomiting, wheezing and gasping and then became unresponsive to even painful stimuli.
  • A 15-month-old who bit into a pack and swallowed a mouthful had profuse vomiting and, after arrival at a hospital, had to be put on a ventilator for airway protection.
  • A 17-month-old bit into a packet and then rapidly developed drowsiness, vomited, breathed the product into the lungs, and had to be put on a ventilator.

It is important to remember that all cleaning products can be dangerous and precautions must be made to keep them locked up and out of the reach of children. If you suspect that your child has come in contact with a cleaning product or laundry pod, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers immediately at 800-222-1222.

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One thought on “Infant death highlights need for precautions using laundry detergent pods

  1. Kelley Kulikowski RN says:

    I can understand why this is an issue for toddlers and older children, but I can’t imagine how a 7 month old had access to laundry pods!

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