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As the popularity of liquid laundry packets continues to rise, so does the risk that children will gain toxic exposure to them. A 7- month-old in Florida died Friday, Aug. 9, after consuming a liquid laundry detergent packet. This was the first child in the United States to die from toxic exposure to a packet, though many children in the U.S. have been hospitalized after consumption. The Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama has received more than 100 calls regarding laundry packet consumption since they hit the market in February of 2012. Of these calls, 99 percent of the children who have gained toxic exposure were under the age of 5. Forty-five of those cases were seen in emergency departments. The Regional Poison Control Center referred 24 of those to health care facilities, while 21 of those cases were self-referred.
Liquid laundry detergent packets are typically bright in color, gelatinous and resemble candy, making them appealing to children. Some also come in clear containers, making it easy for children to see the brightly colored packets inside. Most children find these packets under the sink or in the laundry room and were playing with them at the time of their exposure. Typical symptoms of exposure are gastrointestinal pain, difficulty breathing, skin irritation and vision problems.
Parents can protect their children from toxic exposure to liquid laundry packets:
1. Keep the liquid packets out of the reach of children. Add child safety locks to cabinets, doors and containers, purchase brands that have child resistant closures or keep the packets on higher shelves where they can’t be seen or reached by children.
2. Put the packets in a bland-colored, opaque container. This takes the visual temptation out of the packets.
3. Make sure that hands are dry when touching the packets. If wet, hands can pass along second-hand exposure from the chemicals.