COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new study shows a 17 percent increase in calls to poison-control centers across the nation in the last couple of years because of kids eating laundry or dishwashing soap.
Study co-author Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Control Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said they looked at both laundry and dishwashing soaps, and by far the most dangerous were the laundry pods because they're very colorful.
"Bright little 2- and 3-year-olds running around their house, and these are very pretty, and they put 'em in their mouths," he said, "and they kind of bite into it thinking it's perhaps candy, and it squirts into the back of their throat, and they get sort of a blast of this."
In the two-year study, Spiller said, poison-control centers got more than 22,000 calls because of children either eating or inhaling laundry pods or accidentally squirting the contents into their eyes.
Spiller said the pods are more dangerous than you might think because they're so concentrated.
"Injury to the throat, the lungs, burns to the skin," he said. "We've also seen really severe cases, children that required intubation, ICU; we've had cardiac arrest. So, in a few cases, it can be really severe."
Manufacturers have added warning labels to containers, and some have child-resistant caps, but Spiller said he thinks they should consider changing the formulation or appearance of the laundry packets as well. He noted that many are sold in plastic, resealable bags that could resemble food pouches.
Despite the convenience of the pods, Spiller said, parents and caregivers of young children should stick to the old-fashioned way of doing laundry and dishes.
"They need to keep it up high, they need to put it in a locked cabinet," he said, "or, perhaps a better idea is to perhaps go back to the liquid laundry detergent, just for a few years."
Children younger than age 3 accounted for about three-quarters of the total poisoning cases in the study.
The study is online at pediatrics.aappublications.org.