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Eye Injuries from Laundry Pods on the Rise in Young Kids

A new study shows laundry pods pose risks of chemical burns for small kids' eyes, in addition to a poison hazard if ingested.

laundry pods close-up timquo/Shutterstock
More bad news about laundry pods: We already knew the pesky little detergent packets were landing kids in the emergency room after they mistook them for candy and popped them in their mouths. Now, according to a new study, these pods are also a growing source of eye injuries in toddlers. In fact, among kids ages 3 and 4, the number of chemical burns in the eye caused by laundry detergent packets increased from 12 instances in 2012 to 480 in 2015.

Yikes!

Apparently, kids can injure themselves when the packets break open and the liquid squirts into one or both eyes, or when the contents leak onto their hands and they then rub their eyes. Some children may even have long-term damage due to chemical burns.

"The detergents inside the pods are among the worst chemicals that the eye can be exposed to," explained lead researcher R. Sterling Haring, DO, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University. "Detergents are alkaline in nature, and alkaline burns are typically more severe than acid burns in the eye. They penetrate deeper, they burn faster, and they are more caustic to the tissues in the eye itself."

Pretty scary stuff! Which is why the researchers recommend storing these things out of children's reach, preferably in a locked cabinet. They also implore manufacturers to consider "redesigning the packaging to reduce the attractiveness of these products to young children and improving their strength and durability."

The American Cleaning Institute, meanwhile, has issued a statement maintaining that these recommendations are already in play, and that the study analyzed data prior to the new safety standards that were published in December 2015.

"It is important to note that, by the end of 2016, more than 99 percent of the volume of liquid laundry packets being shipped to retailers were in compliance with the ASTM standard," the ACI wrote, adding that changes include things like ensuring packets include a soluble film containing a bitter substance, and that they can withstand the squeezing pressure of a child.

Still, if you're a fan of laundry pods and have toddlers at home, you should probably proceed with caution. And it's not a bad idea to keep the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.