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Kids Increasingly Eating Poisonous Laundry Packs, Despite Safety Efforts

U.S. News & World Report U.S. News & World Report 25/04/2016 Kimberly Leonard
In this photo taken Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, laundry detergent packets are held for a photo, in Chicago.: More children are being exposed to harmful chemicals in laundry packs, despite efforts to keep them safe. © (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) More children are being exposed to harmful chemicals in laundry packs, despite efforts to keep them safe.

Children are increasingly getting their hands on colorful, toxic laundry detergent packets, which can burst when they bite into them, leading to coma, breathing failure or even death.

Researchers have found that from January 2013 to December 2014, more than 22,000 incidents resulted in calls for help after children younger than 6 were exposed to the chemicals of detergent packets – either eating them, touching them, breathing them in or getting them in their eyes. Two children died after ingesting the packets.

These findings, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, reflect a 17 percent increase in incidences involving laundry packs.

The trend occurred despite manufacturers placing safety warnings on the packets and despite other efforts to make the packages more child-resistant.

"This voluntary standard is a good first step, but it needs to be strengthened," Dr. Gary Smith, the study's senior author, said in a statement. "Unless this unacceptably high number of exposures declines dramatically, manufacturers need to continue to find ways to make this product and its packaging safer for children."

The findings led authors of the study to recommend parents or guardians use traditional laundry detergent when their children are younger than 6. "It isn't worth the risk when there is a safer and effective alternative available," Dr. Marcel Casavant, co-author of the study and chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center.

The study, conducted by researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and from the Central Ohio Poison Center, compared laundry packets to traditional detergent, traditional dish detergent and dish detergent packets. Researchers found laundry packets continue to cause the highest rate of accidental poisonings in children under age 6, causing more serious medical outcomes, more hospitalizations and more breathing failures.

During that time period, more than 62,000 calls were made to poison control centers that involved either laundry detergent or dish detergent. Sixty percent of calls involved laundry packets, and 86.2 percent of exposures were in children younger than 3.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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