In 2012 and 2013, 769 US kids were hospitalized after accidentally poisoning themselves with detergent pods, according to a study out today in Pediatrics. The accidents typically occur when children, mistaking the pods for candy or toys, ingest or burst the packets of concentrated detergent; in addition to poisoning, the detergent can cause mouth, throat, or eye burns. There were 17,230 calls to poison centers over those two years related to detergent accidents involving children under age 6; most weren't seriously harmed, but one baby died last year. Researchers also found that 144 suffered eye injuries, 30 went into comas, and 12 had seizures. It highlights the need for safer packaging, the Wall Street Journal reports, even though some manufacturers have already made changes; the study also suggests changing the detergent formula itself.
The American Cleaning Institute, which represents cleaning product makers, has also issued voluntary guidelines for labeling. But some parents still don't know the risks, according to a recent ACI survey that found just 34% of households store the packets in a cabinet or behind a locked door. In one case, it was actually the baby's grandmother who mistook a detergent pod for a teething toy and gave it to the 9-month-old. "We don't have those pods in our house anymore," her mother tells the AP. Poison control centers also often receive calls about regular laundry detergent, but that's not as dangerous as the concentrated packets, experts say. Kids don't usually ingest much regular detergent since it tastes bad, the Journal notes, but because detergent pods tend to burst when bitten, the concentrated liquid then shoots down kids' throats.