Laundry ‘pod’ poisoning risk – expert responds

Laundry ‘pods’ containing concentrated detergent pose a serious poisoning risk to young children, according to a new US study.

LaundryResearch published this week in the journal Pediatrics found that in 2012 and 2013, U.S. poison control centres received reports of 17,230 children younger than 6 years of age swallowing, inhaling, or otherwise being exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent pods.

A total of 769 young children were hospitalised during that period, an average of one per day. One child died.

“It is not clear that any laundry detergent pods currently available are truly child resistant; a national safety standard is needed to make sure that all pod makers adopt safer packaging and labelling,” said Dr Gary Smith, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in a media release.

“Parents of young children should use traditional detergent instead of detergent pods.”

The researchers offered the following tips to parents and child caregivers:

  • Parents with young children and child caregivers should use traditional laundry detergent, which is much less toxic than laundry detergent pods.
  • Store laundry detergent pods up, away, and out of sight – in a locked cabinet is best.
  • Close laundry detergent pod packages or containers and put them away immediately after use.
  • Save the National Poison Help Line number [0800 POISON (0800 764 766) in New Zealand] in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.

The SMC contacted the New Zealand National Poisons Centre for local comment on this research. Feel free to use these quotes in your reporting. If you would like to contact a New Zealand expert, please contact the SMC (04 499 5476;

Dr Leo Schep, Toxicologist, National Poisons Centre, University of Otago, comments:

“Laundry pods describe single use packets of a concentrated formulation of detergents, surrounded by a water-soluble membrane. There have been a number of articles published in medical journals since 2010 describing the risk to young children.

“As these products have been wrapped in bright colours, children can mistake them for confectionaries. Also, they contain a concentrated formulation of detergents; the risk of injury following inadvertent exposure to them is greater than for the traditional powders and liquid laundry products.

“Since April 2012, the New Zealand National Poisons Centre (NPC) has received 13 calls on these products, of which 12 involved children (8 months to 5 years of age); symptoms described were mild to moderate with some patients suffering severe and/or persistent vomiting and eye irritation.

“Given the concentrated formulations within these pods, and the increased risks of injury, the NPC advises medical assessment for all ingestions and eye exposures or skin or inhalation exposures where symptoms are more than mild, resolving irritation.”