To some kids, the bright colors and bite-size packaging of single-doss packets of laundry detergent simply look too much like candy. Last night, one-and-a-half-year-old Jeivon Williams put one in his mouth and it burst. He was rushed to the emergency room with severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The packets are advertised as no more mess, spills or heavy jugs of detergent, but the American Association of Poison Control Centers is reporting a recent surge in calls about the packets making children violently ill.
"The children who are getting into these little pods are developing many more symptoms than we would have expected," Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education at New Jersey Poison Center, told ABC News.
The same thing that gives the packets their cute, convenient appeal is the very reason they are so incredibly dangerous. The container for Tide Pods even resembles a candy jar. Responding to the concerns, Tide told ABC News it plans to have new child proof containers out this summer and the detergent company, Dropps, defended its products.
"[Our] laundry detergent products are all enzyme-free and approved by the EPA for their Design for the Environment program which recognizes safer chemistry," Dropps said in a statement. "We encourage consumers to keep the products out of the reach of children as with any household chemical."
The single dose laundry detergent was introduced in the U.S. in February. The poison control center said it first started to link illness with the pods earlier this month. In the last 20 days, it has received close to 180 calls, almost 10 a day. Texas poison control centers report receiving 57 of those emergency calls.
Toxicologists aren't sure exactly what in the product is making the kids sick. Other laundry detergents cause only mild stomach upset or even no symptoms at all. But the pods cause severe symptoms rapidly.
There are multiple reports of toddlers who, within minutes of swallowing or biting into one of the packets, developed vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some of them became non-responsive or had to be put on ventilators or intubated.
While a sticker on the container is supposed to remind parents to keep the product away from kids, poison control is sending out an even stronger message: keep this eye candy out of reach and out of sight.