Consumer Reports Says Detergent Pods too Dangerous to Recommend
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Consumer Reports Says Detergent Pods too Dangerous to Recommend

July 21, 2015

A leading consumer magazine won't be recommending laundry detergent pods until manufacturers redesign them to be less dangerous for children.

Despite changes in packaging, Consumer Reports says that children continue to become sick from the packets, which contain a concentrated version of popular detergents. The magazine recommends that parents of children younger than six forgo their use altogether.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that between January and June of 2015 poison control centers nationwide received almost 6,050 reports of kids five and younger ingesting or inhaling the pods, or getting its contents on their skin or in their eyes.

In 2014, there were more than 11, 700 similar complaints.

None of the pods would have made the list anyway, Consumer Reports wrote on its website, and the ban only applies to liquid-filled pods. Powder-filled pods don't carry the same risks.

The Controversy

Light and convenient, laundry pods have continued to increase in popularity over the years. The soft plastic packs contain a highly concentrated detergent formula with candy-like colors. This combination makes them more appealing and more toxic for young children who can't resist putting things in their mouths.

In 2012, Consumer Reports started calling on manufacturers to make the pods safer. Many did by switching from clear to opaque plastic containers and adding child-resistant latches. Despite those changes, there have been more than 17,200 exposures to laundry detergent since 2012.

There is, however, a set of voluntary standards currently being developed many of which are already implemented in Europe. The pods are harder to bite into and don't dissolve as quickly. Some detergents have a bittering agent added so they taste bad to children. Some manufactures have said they would include some of these safeguards regardless of the outcome of the voluntary standards.

In February of this year lawmakers proposed tasking the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with creating a set of safety standards that would make the pods less visually appealing to children and include more warnings for parents on the packaging.

In an emailed statement to NPR, Proctor and Gamble said that less than 1 percent of the calls to poison control centers were related to laundry packs, and the vast majority required minor or no medical treatment. "Today, we are seeing encouraging signs that the rate of accidents relative to the number of P&G laundry pacs [sic] sold is declining at a rate of 28 percent," the company wrote.

Similarly, "We are seeing signs that the rate of accidents relative to the number of P&G laundry pacs sold is declining from when they were first were introduced to the marketplace,"Anitra Marsh, P&G's associate director of brand communications, told Consumer Reports.

But the magazine notes that P&G's injury data, like its product formulas, are not public information so Consumer Reports has been unable to verify those claims.

For those daring enough to read the comment sections on stories about the controversy, they'll find mixed results with some blaming parents for not watching their children more carefully, while others agree with that something should be done to make the pods less enticing.

For parents that choose to continue using the pods, child safety experts putting containers away immediately either on a high shelf or locked cabinet so they are out of sight and out of reach for children.