Florida Baby's Death Highlights Danger of Laundry Detergent Pods

More than 5,000 harmful exposures of the pods have been reported in 2013.

ByABC News
August 17, 2013, 12:47 PM
Laundry detergent pods are being linked to the death of a child in Kissimmee, Fla., August 2013.
Laundry detergent pods are being linked to the death of a child in Kissimmee, Fla., August 2013.
Getty Images

Aug. 17, 2013 — -- The death of a Florida infant after he ate a laundry detergent pod highlights the potential dangers of the packets.

The baby boy, who police said was less than a year old, was a resident at a battered women's shelter in Kissimmee, Fla. The shelter hands out laundry detergent packets individually to residents, according to police.

"The mother took the laundry detergent packets, put them in the laundry basket, which was on the bed, and the child was sleeping on the bed," Kissimmee Police Department spokeswoman Stacie Miller told ABCNews.com.

"She left the room for a brief moment to have a conversation with one of the staff members, and when she came back, the child was eating the laundry detergent packet," Miller said.

The mother called 911, and the child was rushed to the hospital where he died. The accident happened on Aug. 9.

No charges have been brought against the mother at this time, and any possible charges would be up to the state attorney's office.

"At this point, we don't see any malice or child neglect," Miller said.

The Medical Examiner's Office said the baby's autopsy results were still pending, so there is no official cause or manner of death yet. Results of the toxicology reports could take up to 12 weeks.

"We don't have the Medical Examiner's report back yet, but we believe that ingesting the laundry pods was the cause of death," Terri Durdaller of the Department of Children and Families told ABCNews.com in an email.

The DCF said in a statement that the baby's death shed light on a larger issue.

"The death of little Michael is a tragedy. It reminds all of us as parents the dangers of leaving household cleaning supplies around our little ones," the statement said.

"Unfortunately, on average we lose 20 children each year to accidental poisoning in the state of Florida. We have had prior history with this family, and at this time our investigation is open and ongoing. We continue to work with law enforcement as the investigation moves forward into the circumstances surrounding the poisoning."

Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center of Tampa, said problems with the detergent pods are very recent.

"They just became available in the U.S. last year, and within weeks to months of them becoming available we began to get reports through the poison centers of children ending up in the hospital following exposure to these pockets," Lewis-Younger told ABCNews.com.

She said the cases vary in severity, often depending on factors that include the child's age and size. The novelty of the problem means that there are not solid numbers on how many children have been harmed significantly, "but we know it's a lot more than we would get with ordinary laundry detergents," Lewis-Younger said.

From Jan. 1 to July 31 of this year there have been 5,732 exposures reported, she said.

"That doesn't mean all the kids were all really sick. It means they were exposed," Lewis-Younger said. "There are no confirmed deaths that I'm aware of."

Dr. Cathleen Clancy, associate medical director for the National Capital Poison Center, explained the dangers of the detergent packets.