Seven-month-old Michael Williams was coughing when paramedics arrived at the battered woman’s shelter where he was staying. His mother was visibly distraught. She had stepped away from him as he slept in bed. When she returned she saw him eating laundry detergent packets provided by the shelter, which she had placed inside a laundry basket in the bed next to him. Shelter staff helped her remove the empty packets and clear the phlegm from the boy’s mouth, but the damage had been done. Emergency responders rushed him to the hospital, where his condition grew worse and he died.
The Florida Department of Children and Families confirmed that the infant had ingested a detergent pod but said it will take weeks for medical examiners to make a ruling on the official cause of death. If the detergent pod was the cause, it would be the first confirmed death associated with the concentrated detergent packets. And, it will bring to light the dangers poison control officials have warned about since the detergent pods have become so widely used among consumers.
Officials say the bright and colorful packaging and the soft, squishy product inside could be easily mistaken by babies for candy. Typically, laundry detergent whether in liquid or powder form can cause mouth or throat irritation when ingested and can progress to vomiting. The pods, which contain concentrated amounts of detergent, generally have a more violent effect on children, such as prolonged vomiting, coughing, breathing difficulty, and drowsiness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now differentiates between pod and non-pod detergent poisoning.
What makes the pods so toxic to children is not fully understood, but U.K. researchers say the packets contain a chemical that helps the product dissolve in water that can also cause the esophagus to swell.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents keep laundry detergent packets – as well as all cleaning products – out of reach of children even if the pods or packages they come in appear childproof. Children should never be allowed to handle the pods.
Source: Orlando Sentinel