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

We tech-loving folks should be aware of how delightful new inventions might get our kiddies into trouble.
Written by Denise Amrich, Contributor

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.

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