You hear about it in the news – children and teenagers are ingesting cleaning pods. Since 2012, 8 children under the age of 5 have died from cleaning pods, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. For fun, teenagers are taking the “Tide Pod Challenge”.

Cleaning pods are concentrated detergent encapsulated in a colorful gel or powder that look like candy. Designed for laundry or dishwashers, these pods offer a convenient way to add cleaning solutions. Cleaning pods harm children and teens in several ways. First, the concentrated detergent can be aspirated into the lungs. Alternatively, the pod contents can be ingested which can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate. Children who have been exposed have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness and seizures.

Unfortunately, their brightly colored look is enticing to young children. They often smell sweet and resemble candy. As parents and caregivers know, children 5 and under often explore the world using their senses and are quick to put things into their mouths. To keep young children safe, cleaning pods (and all cleaning supplies) should be stored out of reach and made inaccessible to children.

For teens and even some adults, the pods are ingested on purpose as part of a challenge from their peers. Talk with pre-teens and teenagers and explain the dangers of the pod challenge and other risky behaviors.

The statistics* are encouraging. In 2016, the poison control center had 13,439 calls related to pods. In 2017, this number went down to 12,299. Of the 12,299, 10,500 were children younger than 5. To put this problem in perspective, the poison control center had 23,872 calls in 2017 about inadvertently giving someone else’s medicine and 20,723 calls about poisonings related to arts, crafts, office supplies.

Let’s hope the public service announcement with New England Patriots’ Rob Gonkowski helps teens understand the dangers and discourages this dangerous behavior. The message is clear, it’s never a good idea to eat a pod. If you suspect a child under your care may have been exposed to or may have ingested a substance, immediate call the poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or 9-1-1.

* David D. Gummin, James B. Mowry, Daniel A. Spyker, Daniel E. Brooks, Michael O. Fraser & William Banner (2017) 2016 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 34th Annual Report, Clinical Toxicology, 55:10, 1072-1254, DOI: 10.1080/15563650.2017.1388087

For more information, a Safety in the Home course is available within the Basic Childcare Certification Program from Amslee Institute.