Warnings have been out for a while on the dangers of small children getting their hands on laundry detergent pods that often look like packets of candy. The main threat has been poisoning, but another problem has surfaced; vision threatening burns, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and looked at eye injuries caused by chemical burns or conjunctivitis among 3 to 4 year olds between 2010 and 2015.
They found that more than 1,200 preschoolers in the United States suffered eye burns from these single-use detergent pods. In 2012, only 12 such burns were reported. By 2015, that number was almost 500.
"These pods look like toys, they look like candy, and kids are finding them, playing with them, puncturing them, and the chemicals inside the pods are getting into their eyes," said lead researcher Dr. R. Sterling Haring, from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
The injuries often occur when children are playing with the pods and they break, squirting liquid into their eyes. Eye burns can also happen when the soap gets on children’s hands and they touch their eyes, Haring said.
"Laundry detergent pods are playing a large and growing role in chemical eye burns among small children," he said.
As a proportion of all chemical burns to the eye among kids, burns from these liquid laundry pods rose from less than 1 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2015, Haring said.
"I am expecting the number of burns in 2016 to be higher than 2015. These numbers have grown every year," he said.
The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), an industry trade group, has voluntarily introduced improved safety standards for many of these products. New guidelines call for pods that can withstand squeezing pressure from a child. The pods also have a bitter substance on their outer layer to keep children from swallowing their contents. And packaging of the pods is now opaque so the laundry pods can't be seen from outside the packaging, the group said. Many detergent manufacturers have already begun making some of these changes.
One reason the detergent pods can be so dangerous is because the chemicals used are alkaline instead of acidic. Alkaline chemicals are more likely to cause lasting damage than acidic chemicals, Haring said.
The effects of alkaline chemicals can be devastating to a young child’s vision.
"The detergent can burn the cornea, leaving a scar that can impair vision or potentially cause blindness," Haring said. "In the most severe cases, children may need a corneal transplant to restore vision."
If a child has a chemical burn, step one is to rinse the eye with cool water under a faucet for 20 minutes, Haring said.
"Call 911 or take the child to an emergency room, but do it after you rinse the eye for 20 minutes," he said. "That is the first step, and that's the most important step. The longer those chemicals sit on the eye, the higher the likelihood they are going to leave a lasting burn and threaten vision.”
Detergent pods have become very popular because they are convenient, but parents and caretakers sometimes forget that they are packed with dangerous chemicals. These pods need to be kept in an area where small children cannot see them or reach them.
The report was published online in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20170202/laundry-detergent-pods-linked-to-eye-burn-danger-in-kids#1