Health care workers and 24-hour caregivers for seniors in the Pasadena area need to be warned about a possible health risk: detergent pods. The team at Accredited Home Care is trying to spread the word that these items can be hazardous, even fatal.
While most adults are alert enough to realize that products found in the laundry area are generally not good for health, laundry pods sometimes can be ingested by others, from kids who don’t know any better to curious teens to bloggers trying to get ratings. But another group at risk is seniors with dementia, who also may not know what they’re eating.
If you’re not familiar with laundry pods, they are small, round capsules of laundry soap that users are supposed to throw in the washing machine with their dirty laundry. The intent is to make it easier for people to not to have to measure out the correct amount of liquid or powdered detergent every load of wash. The pods can also mean less mess as well and no need for big, bulky jugs or boxes of soap.
However, since 2012, companies like Tide, Purex, Proctor & Gamble and Arm & Hammer that make types of pods have faced challenges with this time-saving product. Children, who may not recognize them or their purpose, were discovering them and eating them. Tide pods are bright with swirls of color, making them look like a tasty piece of candy.
By 2015, Tide reported 13,000 people had reported being poisoned by eating these pods, mostly children under 5, prompting efforts by Tide and the other producers to begin educating users that as good as they may look, they aren’t meant for human consumption. They improved warning labels on the products, made the outer coverings taste unpleasant and encouraged parents to take more caution to keep them out of the reach of kids.
The seeming ridiculousness of anyone consciously eating laundry soap has led to a lot of laughs from parody sites and people who create and share silly pictures on social media such as Facebook or Instagram. But as silly as it seemed, the act appealed to a certain type of online users who go out of their way to do stunts that are silly, dangerous, and all the dumb things someone isn’t supposed do at home.
Since the act of eating laundry pods fit this bill, online videos began appearing with teens filming themselves taking bites of pods or even eating an entire one. Their respective audiences enjoyed them, which led to other imitators doing the same thing, and before too long, the Tide Pod Challenge became basically a worldwide dare to fellow video-makers to join in the fun.
Time reported that there were 39 reports of laundry pod-related poisonings by teens in 2016, which grew to 53 in 2017. By Jan. 15, 2018, there were already 39, an alarming trend that caused the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a nationwide warning telling people to avoid pods and telling them that they’re poison.
While a Super Bowl commercial also tried to discourage people from eating them, the Challenge and the jokes still are continuing. Some food companies are making light of the situation and coming up with treats like donuts that resemble pods.
While seniors or children are more likely to eat the pods accidentally and not part of any kind of Internet dare, the risks are still the same.
Eating concentrated detergent can cause respiratory damage and a dangerous condition called chemical pneumonia.
Depending on how much someone eats, the soap can cause minor irritation to the mouth and esophagus all the way to serious stomach and intestinal damage. People report vomiting and severe abdominal pain as well – it is essentially poison.
Even worse, people don’t have to swallow soap for it to take effect and cause harm. Excess laundry detergent can still get into someone’s eyes or soak into skin. Powdered detergent can also be inhaled.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that six adults with dementia died by eating liquid laundry detergent between 2012 and 2017. They may mistake the pods for candy and not remember that they’re soap. Powdered detergent could also be confused for other powdered substances. In some cases, people with dementia have a compulsion to eat anything they see, food or not.
Caregivers of people with dementia in the Pasadena area should be pro-active in making sure laundry products are difficult to access.
- Keep laundry and soap products in different parts of the house than areas where food is stored
- Stick with traditional forms of detergent familiar to more people, such as liquid or powder, not pods.
- Make it difficult for someone with dementia to visit laundry areas, or at least make the soap difficult to reach, such as in a high shelf or locked in a cabinet.
- Be alert for an increase in behaviors such as attempting to eat non-food products.
The team at Accredited Home Care will be happy to talk to caregivers and family members about ways to improve awareness and minimize access to laundry products.