Laundry detergent packets commonly known as “pods” are a growing safety issue for young children.

Doctors are urging parents not to buy or use liquid washing capsules and to buy washing powder instead. The warning comes after soaring numbers of children being hospitalised after ingesting gel tabs.

Researchers from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, looked at 62,254 children under the age of 6 who were exposed to various forms of laundry and dishwasher detergent from 2013 to 2014. Mainly through ingestion.

While severe complications and death were rare among those exposed, researchers noted that the greatest number of exposures were to laundry and dishwasher detergent packets or “pods.”

They found a 17 percent increase in children being exposed to laundry detergent packets and a 14 percent increase in exposure to dishwasher detergent packets over the study period. Additionally, they found children who suffered the worst complications, including hospitalisations and intubation, were more likely to have been exposed to laundry detergent pods than other kinds of detergent. Two deaths reported in the study were associated with laundry detergent pods.

Researchers’ findings showed that “laundry detergent packets are more toxic than other types of detergents,” according to the study, and they advised that households with children under age 6 should consider using traditional laundry detergent instead of the pods.

”Detergents should be stored up and out of sight of children and in a locked cabinet to help prevent exposures,” the researchers wrote. “When detergents are in use, parents and child caregivers should not leave the product accessible to children.”

Dr. Donna Seger, executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center, told ABC News that children are at risk because they can inhale chemicals in the pod as they try to eat it.

“The problem with these pods is they are put together under pressure and they explode when they are put under water,” Seger explained. “It gets into their lungs.”

“They’re very attractive and very pretty. [Parents] need to put them in something where kids can’t see them,” Cheri Wessels, a certified specialist in poison information told ABC News.

While she said “the higher they keep it the better,” she pointed out that kids can climb and get into seemingly out-of-reach areas.

Co-author of the study Dr Marcel Casavant, chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, said:

“Many families don’t realise how toxic these highly concentrated laundry detergent packets are.

“Use traditional laundry detergent when you have young kids in your home. It isn’t worth the risk when there is a safer and effective alternative available.”

Philip Malpass, of the UK Cleaning Products Association, said:
“The products are absolutely safe when used as instructed, but with inquisitive youngsters in the home parents have a vital role to play in keeping containers closed and storing all household cleaning products out of reach.”

Earlier this year a UK mum posted a photo of her injured son on Facebook warning other parents to make sure their laundry pods are out of reach of children at all times. Read her story HERE.

CHOICE shared in the 18 months leading up to 2013, there were 85 calls made to Australian poison hotlines relating to accidents involving children and exposure to laundry capsules.

In 2013 the ACCC warned consumers about liquid laundry detergent capsule injuries.

“Children who have either ingested these laundry capsules or have been exposed to them have experienced symptoms such as severe skin irritations, coughing, drowsiness, vomiting and even temporary blindness,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

The ACCC recommends:
•Keep laundry capsules out of sight and reach of children, preferably in cupboards and storage compartments that they can’t reach, or are lockable.
•Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 if you believe your child has symptoms of being exposed to household chemicals.
•If laundry detergent of capsules are swallowed by your child, rinse as much of the detergent as possible from their mouth and seek immediate medical advice.
•If the product comes in contact with your child’s eyes, immediately flush their eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical advice.
•Ensure your hands are dry before using a laundry capsule and wash and dry your hands thoroughly after use.

If your child has been exposed to household chemicals, such as laundry detergent products, immediately contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

I don’t use the laundry pods, but we do have the dishwasher ones that I am always very careful about. I think they would be just as bad though?

What do you use in the laundry and dishwasher?

Share your comments below.

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  • They are a safety issue indeed, even for the taller kids. I’ve tried these pods once when they were in sale. Never bought them since, they’re not my thing. In fact I prefer to wash with soap nuts. SoapNuts also known as wash nuts or soap berries are an organic natural chemical free option for your washing machine. They can also be used to make multi-pupose cleaners for your home or you hair & body (great for those with skin allergies / sensitivities). You can order them online & on ebay.


  • Great article. And I always prefer powder for washing my clothes. But still this article is so helpful.


  • Too many non edible products look appealing and like lollies


  • I had no idea. I’ve just always used powder.


  • I thought that many years ago when they bought out the dishwasher tablets with all there fancy colours. Manufacturers really need to put more thought into their products. The products may do a wonderful job, but they should not ever been made attractive to children.


  • You can just imagine how attractive these would be to kids – they’re bright and colourful and look like sweets – I have never used them, I’ll stick to my powder (which is stacked way up high out of reach)!


  • I don’t use them but it is a good warning as you just don’t know.


  • I don’t use them, my kids don’t use them. Why would you want to use laundry pods? I should imagine they would be more expensive then boxed or bottled detergent. What is the benefit of pods?


  • Important to tidy this away from the kids indeed.


  • I use powder in the laundry and the house is old so its a locked room off the back porch anyway. And the solid tablets for the dishwasher that our son loves to put in the bit for the tablets so he completely understands they aren’t anything nice.


  • I use dishwasher pods but they don’t really look like food.

    • They are small and colourful, they could look like lollies to little children


  • We use a mixture of products and always keep them up high and locked away and out of reach of children and pets. All cleaning products should be stored securely.


  • Really important reminders – it’s so easy to forget with “everyday” items.


  • Just going by the look of these they look hazardous. I can see how they entice children, bright pretty colours they almost look like jelly. Rather concerning. I only ever buy powder for dishwasher powder, and it is kept out of reach from my children and pets.


  • We use a powder that is kept high out of reach


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