The dark side of those bright detergent pacs: kids being poisoned

The dark side of those bright detergent pacs: kids being poisoned

Summary: We tech-loving folks should be aware of how delightful new inventions might get our kiddies into trouble.


Technology. Gotta love it. Especially when it makes life more convenient and does a great job at the same time. However, sometimes there's a dark side to cool new inventions in the form of dangers we hadn't considered.

Poison Control Center Hotline 1-800-222-1222

One of my favorite new(ish) inventions are those Cascade Complete Pacs. Those tiny, cute pods do an amazing job in the inexpensive, no-frills dishwasher that came with our house when we bought it last year. They have eliminated the need for pre-washing dishes, a chore I've always hated. I mean, who wants to wash their dishes before they wash their dishes?

I have never used anything that accomplishes clean dishes so effectively. I always figured they were safer because they eliminated the danger and gooey mess of splashing liquid gel dishwashing detergent, or the aspiration risk of the powdered stuff. Leaning over the dishwasher and accidentally inhaling a lungfull of that powder dust is no fun. Not to mention how nasty it is to get either of those substances in your eye by mistake.

All I have to do is make sure my hands are dry, pop one of those bad boys in the little detergent compartment, and start the dishwasher. The little pacs are so adorable, too. Their colorful swirls give me a grin.

From drudgery to grin is often an impossible journey, so I find it to be worth the greater expense for the convenience, perceived safety, appeal, and desired results. I just buy them in bulk for the best price I can get and consider it money well spent.

Tide makes similar pacs for laundry, too. I haven't tried the New Tide Pods Detergent yet, although I've been thinking about it. That's why Kim Painter's story about them in USA Today caught my eye.

Apparently, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), these pacs pose a serious poison risk for children. The enticing form factor and swirling colors of these pacs scream "candy" to the little ones, and they already want to put everything in their mouths as it is!

Doctors have been reporting more and more cases of little kids eating concentrated detergent pacs, with pretty serious results like needing to be put on a ventilator, or falling into a coma.

You can download the PDF press release from the AAPCC if you want to learn more. The release is specifically about laundry detergent. However, I looked at my box of Cascade Complete pods (which are stored in a low cabinet under the sink), and the box clearly says it's dangerous if ingested (or gets on skin or in eyes) and contains information about specific dangerous ingredients, as well as instructions for calling the poison control center.

It's sad that often when new technologies are introduced, our kids get caught in the crossfire. Think of all the tragedies that have occurred with plastic bags! We don't consider them to be new tech now but many types of plastic bags didn't exist when my parents were kids. Even something as innocuous as window blinds can cause death or serious injury.

Parents worry about these things a lot. Many parents secure their cabinets with child-proof locks. Many of us who don't have kids might not think too much about this sort of thing. I'd never thought of those pacs as dangerous. As I said earlier, I'd actually thought of them as safer...and they are, for me, because I'm not tempted to eat them. But you can bet that if a friend with a toddler comes over, those pacs are going to be placed on a high shelf!

According to the USA Today article, a Tide spokesperson said that the Tide packets will start coming in child-proof containers this summer, which is a good thing.

It's also a good thing to know the phone number for the poison control center, at 1-800-222-1222. It's a wise idea to keep that one on the side of the fridge or programmed into your cell phone. In the event of a poison emergency, call this number and give them as much info as you can about what happened. They know what to do and they will help you know what to do.

There are a couple of free iPhone apps about poison control, including the American Association of Poison Control's Poison Center Help, The Poison Center Alliance's PoisonHelp, and Michael Quach's Poisons & Toxins. The first one helps you contact the poison control center in the event of emergency. The others provide preventative education and interesting information.

We need to teach our kids about poison. It would be nice if we stopped accessorizing with cutesy versions of the skull and crossbones, but I know that's probably too much to ask. However, if we aren't likely to do that, we tech-loving folks can at least think about how delightful new inventions might get our kiddies into trouble, and take precautions to secure dangerous items safely away from little hands and mouths.

Do you have kids? Does this worry you? What kinds of trouble have your kids gotten into with common household items? Share any safety tips and other thoughts in the TalkBacks below.

Topic: Apps


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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  • Something reeks about this

    Something reeks about this. When I was young, my parents told me not to eat anything they didn't give to me or that they didn't approve beforehand.

    They started telling me that when I was three and before that, just kept the dangerous stuff including laundry detergent out of my reach.
  • I'm glad to see

    that Tide is starting the tide (bad pun intended) to put those packs in child proof containers however at the same time there should be a modicum of parental responsibility i.e. putting safety locks on the cabinets, putting the packs in a higher cabinet, or even putting the packs in a lockable or child proof container. Why do I get the feeling that there will be some sort of class action lawsuit over this?
    • Because the average consumer has been "dumbed down"?

      As a child, I remember seeing all sorts of warnings that reminded parents to put dangerous chemicals -- i.e. Windex, bleach, ammonia, household cleaners, etc. -- out of reach of children and/or put them in places that kids can't get into.

      But nowadays, we've somehow switched it from being the parent's responsibility to being the manufacturer's responsibility. That's like saying the rat poison manufacturer is responsible because you stored the rat poison with your child's toys: it's irresponsibility on the [b]parents'[/b] part, not the manufacturer's part.
  • anything poisonous

    why don't we pick a suitable fluourescent colour e.g. some sort of orange and agree internationally that at least 60% of any packaging with dangerous stuff if consumed e.g. by kids must be in this colour.

    Sad to say this would not happen in my lifetime. 112 was agreed back in the 1970s as the international emergency number, but local alternatives such as 999 (UK) and 911 (US) are still the ones promoted today, over 30 years later.
  • Good parenting in sadly short supply these days.
  • Oh dear

    As others have said, it's a sad sad day indeed when people forgo simple common sense - do we really need yet more mollycuddling warnings? What happened to being responsible? It's the parents jobs to look after their kids, so it shouldn't matter if there are warning labels or not - anyone with even half a brain removed after a lobotomy would hopefully still have the sense that kids and chemicals don't mix!
  • Gene pool

    This could be seen as alternate to genocide based on IQ. No judgement being made but, "Come on ppl, soap is not a food group."