Liquid laundry detergent pods pose lethal risk for people with dementia

Consumer Reports released a new safety alert about laundry detergent pods and how dangerous, sometimes even deadly, they can be for some adults.

For years, Consumer Reports has warned about the dangers of liquid laundry detergent pods and children. The pods can look like candy and kids can bite into them.

But after looking into the reported deaths from laundry pods, Consumer Reports changed its advice to include some adults.

Between 2012 and early 2017 there have been eight reported deaths in the U.S. associated with laundry pod exposure. Two were young children, but six of the people who died were adults with dementia.

“Caregivers and children of seniors should be aware that ingestion of the contents of certain liquid laundry packets has led to serious and even tragic incidents,” says Patty Davis, press secretary for the CPSC. “Water, wet hands, and even saliva can dissolve the packets and release the highly concentrated liquid.”

People with moderate to severe dementia may mistakenly try to eat items that aren’t food. “A hungry person with dementia foraging in a kitchen may misidentify a box of powdered detergent as cereal and still know to pour it in a bowl and mix it with milk from the refrigerator,” says Lon S. Schneider, M.D., director of the California Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Southern California.

“As a result of this new data from the CPSC highlighting the potential risks of laundry detergent pods to adults with dementia, we are amending our advice and recommending that family members caring for anyone who is cognitively impaired not keep pods in the home,” says James Dickerson, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports. “We also continue to believe that manufacturers should modify the appearance of laundry packets, so they do not look like candy.”

In 2015, American Association of Poison Control Centers logged more 13,619 calls related to liquid laundry pack exposures.

“We very much hope that the steps manufacturers are taking will prevent deaths and injuries associated with these products,” says William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm 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.”

To keep children and adults who suffer from cognitive impairment safe from household cleaners, follow these tips from the medical experts we interviewed:

  • Remove cleaning products that may resemble food from the home.
  • Limit the use of toxic home-cleaning products.
  • Keep cleaning products in their original containers and choose products with latches intended to keep kids out, when possible. Never transfer cleaning products into a generic, unlabeled container.
  • Store cleaning products in a separate place from food, and lock the cabinet. This is especially important when it comes to sweet-smelling liquid cleaners and bright blue glass cleaners, such as Windex, which could be mistaken for bottles of juice.
  • Monitor the behavior of a person with dementia, watching for impulsivity and increasing interest in placing items in the mouth. If you observe these behaviors, remove choking hazards and items that could be fatal if ingested, including cleaners, medications, certain plants, and batteries.

If you think someone in your home may have ingested a laundry pod, call 911.

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By: Jay Edwards
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(Photo: Consumer Reports)