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Researchers Analyze Hazards From Laundry Detergent Pods

Update Date: Oct 19, 2012 10:26 AM EDT

After a series of reports about children swallowing small packets of detergents, mistaking them for sweets, researchers have now looked into the health consequences that young kids face after eating or otherwise messing around with the detergent pods.

The bright colors on the single use packets of detergent confuse small children and there were more than 250 cases reported to poison control centers in U.S by just the month of May this year and hundreds of cases followed.

For the current research, doctors from two poison control centers and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention analyzed more than a thousand incidents where people have been exposed to the pods or any other kinds of laundry detergent, reports

It was in the month of May and June this year that the maximum number cases involving children aged 5 and below were reported at the poison control centers around the country. Overall, a total of 864 children were reportedly exposed to the detergents, and in most of the cases, children ate them.

Apparently, the symptoms in children after swallowing the packets are nausea and breathing problems, which are more severe than typical detergent poisoning, Mail Online had reported in May.

"We're not quite sure why it's happening," said Dr Kurt Kleinschmidt from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

"But we've clearly had some kids who have become much more ill. We look at these pods as being clearly more dangerous than the standard detergent."

The miniature packets of detergents were introduced earlier this year and soon afterwards, the poison control centers started getting calls from parents.

What happened to the children after consuming the detergent, clearly depended on the type of the detergent.

Apparently, kids exposed to the pods appeared more likely to vomit. There also seemed to be a big difference in the drowsiness and lethargy level of the children: 34 kids, or 7 percent of reports, exposed to pods had those issues compared with 9 kids, or 2 percent of reports, for other laundry detergents, the current study found.

Earlier in May, Dr. Michael Beuhler, medical director of the Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte, N.C., told NPR Shots that children seemed to fall very quickly after consuming the pods. What was more worrying were the cases that involved children becoming tired and lethargic.

In some cases, the children reportedly even needed the help of a ventilator to breathe.

The current report is not clear about how exactly the pods are hurting kids.

"It remains unclear whether the significant adverse health effects observed with laundry detergent pod exposures relate to unique ingredients, differences in pH or other chemical properties (e.g., concentration), or the delivery mechanism," the report says.

The findings of the study reveal that the kids exposed to other forms of laundry detergent, such as powders and tablets, seem more likely to suffer coughing, choking and irritated eyes than those exposed to the pods.

Nevertheless, the MMWR analysis notes that exposure to laundry detergent pods is "an emerging public health hazard" in the U.S.

The findings appear in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC.

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