Watch Out: Eye Injuries From Liquid Laundry Packets On The Rise Among Small Kids


Single-dose laundry detergent packets, commonly known as laundry pods, were introduced in the market in 2012. From that time until 2015, the number of chemical eye burns linked to the packets has surged over 30 times among toddlers, a new study has revealed.

The plastic-coated packets led to chemical eye burn in over 1,200 kids ages 3 to 4, causing 26 percent of total cases of the eye injury.

Chemical Eye Burn From Laundry Pods

“Most occurred when children punctured or broke a pod and the detergent squirted into their eye, or it got on their hands and they rubbed their eyes,” explained lead study author Dr. R. Sterling Haring of Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Prevention.

Most of the burns took place at homes, where children played with the bright-colored packets and wondered if they were toys or candy — which they were not, Haring added.

This is potentially very dangerous, as a badly burned cornea can scar and no longer heal, leading to long-term loss of vision, the researcher warned.

Detergents are alkaline, which normally burns more severely than acid burns in the eye. These agents penetrate deeper, burn more rapidly, and are more caustic to eye tissues, Haring said.

In 2016, the industry implemented stricter safety standards, such as making the colorful pods less visible to children who are naturally curious and at their developmental phase. In that year, poison control centers received over 11,500 reports of kids 5 years old and below getting exposed to the liquid detergent through inhalation, ingestion, or skin or eye absorption of the product. In contrast, there were over 12,500 reports in 2015.

Safety vs. Convenience

The laundry pods are made up of a detergent mix wrapped in a water-soluble film, composed of a polyvinyl alcohol polymer, said consulting firm Good Chemistry LLC president Eric J. Moorhead, who was not involved in the research.

They are different from regular liquid detergent in that they have a higher surfactant concentration, or chemicals for removing stains. In high amounts, these typically safe components can irritate eyes and other sensitive part of the body.

These pods are supposedly more convenient since they afford single-load application to laundry.

Consumers Union policy analyst William Wallace called for stronger measures to protect children. He urged manufacturers to make consumer safety a priority, including early into the product design stage and prior to its launch in the market.

Even with safety standards in place, families with small kids in their household should implement smart ways to keep laundry pods away from them. Once the detergent or another chemical substance gets into a child’s eye, Haring recommended rinsing the eye immediately under cool water for 20 minutes. The longer the chemical exposure, the more severe the eye damage will be.

After rinsing, parents or guardians can bring the child to the emergency room or to an ophthalmologist.

In January, popular baby chew toy Sophie the Giraffe was reported to have mold growing inside it in an incident reported by pediatric dentist Dana Chianese. The expert told Good Housekeeping that she no longer recommends Sophie as a chew toy, usually made out of rubber and used as a soothing tool for teething babies.

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