Release date: March 17, 2015
Release number: 15-100

Release Details

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During National Poison Prevention Week 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will join forces with more than 20 countries around the world to raise awareness and prevent deaths and hospitalizations from the ingestion of single-load liquid laundry packets.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) works with governments around the world to share experiences and coordinate efforts on issues impacting the well-being of people. This week, the OECD, CPSC, and an international consortium of government agencies are working to prevent laundry packet-related exposure by sharing incident data, warnings and safety tips.

CPSC estimates that in 2013, about 80,000 children were treated in emergency departments nationwide, due to unintentional poisoning incidents.  Liquid laundry packets are among the top 10 products associated with these pediatric poisonings.

“Many laundry packets are colorful, attractive to children, and can contain poisonous ingredients,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye. “We are working closely with our global partners, the industry, and consumer advocates to raise awareness, create a new safety standard, and protect children from the harm posed by these packets.  I commend the OECD for bringing the world together to recognize and address this serious hazard.”

Exposure to the harmful contents of laundry packets has resulted in reports of loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, throat swelling, excessive vomiting, and temporary vision loss. Since these products reached U.S. store shelves in late 2011, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that nearly 30,000 children have been exposed to the toxic contents of the packets. CPSC is aware of at least one death relating to ingestion of a laundry packet, a 7-month-old Florida boy who died after swallowing the contents of the packet.

Like all medicines and household chemicals, laundry packets should be stored in their original packaging and placed up and out of a child’s reach and sight. Children often are attracted to the colors and texture of the packets. And with just a small amount of liquid or saliva, the concentrated detergent in the liquid soluble capsules can be released.

CPSC is actively engaged with child safety advocates, the cleaning products industry, and ASTM International to develop a new and effective safety standard that will help prevent exposure to the contents of the packets. Industry has already begun to use opaque packaging and establish visible safety warnings; and research continues on the development of child-resistant packaging.

As this work continues, consumers should remember that these packets can dissolve quickly upon contact with water, wet hands, and saliva. To prevent unintentional exposure to the packet’s contents, follow these safety tips:

  • Do not let children handle laundry packets.
  • Do not puncture or take packets apart.
  • Do not leave loose packets around–keep them stored securely in the container.
  • Store laundry packets in their original containers, out of a child’s sight and reach.
  • Keep containers closed and dry.
  • Read and follow package warnings and instructions.
  • Call Poison Help (800-222-1222) immediately if a child swallows or is exposed to the chemicals.
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