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Liquid laundry detergent pods are potentially life threatening for older adults with dementia

Detergent PodsLiquid laundry detergent pods can pose a lethal threat to adults with dementia who may think they’re edible, said Consumer Reports, a not-for-profit consumer organization. The packets are considered a danger to young children.

An 87-year-old woman with dementia, living with her son and daughter-in-law, in Texas was rushed to the hospital after being found slumped over and unresponsive at home. She had eaten two liquid laundry detergent packets. She died two days later.

Consumer Reports filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and found there had been eight deaths related to ingesting laundry pods in the United States between 2012 and early 2017 –including six adults with dementia and two young children.

After laundry detergent pods or packets were introduced in 2012, Consumer Reports urged manufacturers to make them safer. In 2015, Consumer Reports began advising consumers against keeping them in households with children under 6 years old.

Based on the information that older adults are dying, too, Consumer Reports is amending its advice and recommending that family members caring for anyone who is cognitively impaired not keep packets in the home.

“We also continue to believe that manufacturers should modify the appearance of laundry packs, so they do not look like candy,” said James Dickerson, chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports.

The single-load packets are designed to dissolve in the wash and release highly concentrated liquid detergent. Known as Pods, Mighty Pacs, Power Pacs, Power-Caps, PowerBlasts, PowerCore Pacs, and Flings, their concentrated formulation poses a greater risk than conventional detergent, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

“Manufacturers of liquid laundry detergent packets are fully committed to reducing accidental access to these products, which are used safely by millions of consumers every day,” said Brian Sansoni, spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, a trade group that includes detergent manufacturers.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report saying that for children under 6, exposure to the detergent in pods is “an emerging public health hazard.” Between 2012 and 2015, the AAPCC received reports of 38,021 people suffering exposure to the liquid detergent in the packets: ingesting or inhaling it, getting it in their eyes, or absorbing it through their skin. Children under age 6 make up 91 percent of the reported incidents. The AAPCC doesn’t release incidents related to adults with dementia, apart from a few anecdotes, in its annual report.

“We very much hope that the steps manufacturers are taking will prevent deaths and injuries associated with these products,” said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and action section of Consumer Reports. “But if we don’t see a meaningful decline in the number of incidents, we will press for further action – including for lawmakers to put mandatory standards in place.”

For more information on laundry pods, the findings of Consumer Reports’ investigation, and information on what consumers can do to make their home safer, visit

Copyright 2017, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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