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Published June 29, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hot Topics: New detergent pods pose poisoning risk

Childhood poisonings from a new type of detergent packet have soared in recent weeks, experts say, with the total climbing to more than 1,200 this week from about 200 in late May.

By: Source: New York Time’s “Well” blog, INFORUM

Childhood poisonings from a new type of detergent packet have soared in recent weeks, experts say, with the total climbing to more than 1,200 this week from about 200 in late May.

Health authorities have been concerned since late March, when poison control centers around the country noted a small number of reports from parents whose children had opened and swallowed the brightly colored laundry detergent products, which are small enough to fit in a child’s palm and may be mistaken for candy. The detergent packets were introduced by various companies over the winter as a convenience that can be easily dropped into a washing machine.

But because of their bite-size shape and candylike colors, many toddlers and small children have been eating them. Poison control centers first starting putting out alerts about two to three months ago, not long after the products were introduced in the United States.

By late May, the number of reported cases had reached 200 to 250 nationwide, prompting widespread news media attention and an announcement from Tide, which makes one of the most popular forms of the products, that the company would change its packaging to make the packets more difficult for children to tamper with.

Still, poison control centers say they continue to see more and more cases. This week, the California Poison Control System announced that at least nine small children in that state were taken to emergency rooms between last Saturday and Tuesday after exposure to the packets, bringing the state’s total number of cases to at least 91. Six of the latest cases in California involved Tide Pods. Two were linked to Purex Ultra Packs, and one involved All Mighty Paks.

According to the latest figures, poison centers across the country have been seeing an average of 10 cases a day, and as many as 28 a day, said Bruce Ruck, assistant director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System.

All told, there have been at least 1,210 cases reported to poison control centers this year. None have been fatal, but a number of cases have been severe. At least 11 children have been placed on ventilators, and 10 have been intubated.

What SheSays: New products often pose threats we’d never imagined.

Pills and other small, colorful objects – like detergent pods – can look like candy to a child, so don’t store them in a place where little fingers can be tempted.

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