The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that in the U.S. there were more than 62,000 exposures to laundry and dishwasher detergents by children under six years of age in 2013 and 2014. The largest hazard among these products is single use detergent sacs or pods, which have created a spike in calls to poison control centers as well as increased hospital admissions of young children.
“They are colorful and can easily be mistaken for candy or a toy,” said Rais Vohra, MD, an Associate Medical Director at California Poison Control System, Fresno-Madera. “While laundry and detergent pods are in the news lately, dangers in the laundry area go beyond the pods.”
Dr. Vohra says, “Keeping any cleaning and/or potentially toxic products out of the reach of our children is something we need to be extremely vigilant about as parents.” He suggests locking a laundry room door, or if that is not possible, put child proof locks on all cabinets in the kitchen and laundry room where poisons are stored. Storing these products at a height and keeping them hidden also add protective barriers that reduce the chances of accidental ingestion. Some additional recommendations from Dr. Vohra to help prevent poisonings include:
- Household cleaners contain substances that can be harmful if swallowed. Keep them up away from children’s reach — not under the sink. If that’s your only option, be sure to use cabinet locks.
- The washer and dryer can be a great place to play hide and seek. Make sure to keep the appliance doors closed at all times, and install child locks so kids cannot start the washer or dryer. Do not teach young children how the appliances work.
- Wrap electrical cords, and use childproof plugs all outlets when not being used.
- Never use empty beverage or food containers to store chemicals or cleaners. Leave the liquids in the original containers, and toss these out as soon as they are empty.
- While children are young, use traditional powdered laundry and dishwasher detergents since there is less likelihood that they will eat them.
- If you want to see what a child does, get down on the floor and explore the area, seeing it through a child’s eyes. You might be surprised to see hazards that look like food, candy or toys. Remove all dangerous items like mouse traps, ant poison, etc., from areas where children are likely to play and explore.
- Oven cleaner, cooking oils, non-stick sprays, food supplements containing iron, bleach, spot removers, scouring powder, drain cleaner/lye, carpet and upholstery cleaners and ammonia are all poisons that need to be locked up or put on a high shelf.
- Add poison control’s number 1-800-222-1222 to all your phones, and call immediately if you have a question or a child with an exposure. Trained certified pharmacists, nurses and poison information providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are always available.