The Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario Warn Against Potential Dangers of Detergent Pods and Toddler Eye Health
They are brightly coloured and fit perfectly in a toddler’s hand but detergent pods are not a toy and can lead to serious eye injury.
Dr. Jason Kwok, a third-year ophthalmology resident at Sick Kids Hospital, treated three separate incidents of laundry detergent pod injuries to the eye in recent months. “Parents are unaware that detergent pods can be a danger to their children’s eyes,” Kwok said, “Exposure of these chemicals to the eye is an ocular emergency. Parents should be informed of this risk and encouraged to store their detergent pods in areas that are out of reach from children.”
Laundry detergent pods – meant to make washing clothes easier – have higher concentrations of chemicals than found in traditional granular or liquid detergents. If a laundry packet is popped, the detergent can severely burn the cornea, eyelids and skin around the eyes. Chemical burns to the eyes can result in lifelong decreased vision or total blindness. If children swallow laundry packets, the poisoning can be fatal.
A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology in March 2017 by Haring et al., reported that between 2012 and 2015, more than 1,200 preschoolers in the United States suffered eye burns from these single-use detergent pods. In 2012, only 12 such burns were reported. By 2015, that number was almost 500.
The study reported that most injuries occurred when children were handling the pods and the contents squirted into one or both of their eyes or when the pod contents leaked onto their hands and a burn resulted from hand-eye contact.
If your child’s eyes are exposed to the contents of a detergent pod, the following actions are recommended:
- Begin rinsing the eye with a continuous stream of cold water for at least 20 minutes to dilute the corrosive properties of the chemicals.
- Allow water to run from the bridge of the nose outward across the eye. This avoids exposing the other eye to the chemical you are rinsing out.
- If both eyes are affected, you can either alternate sides or allow the water to flow over both eyes at once.
- Place an eye pad / dressing over the area, to prevent the child from rubbing it.
- Go immediately to your nearest emergency department or local eye doctor to be assessed and treated.
All cleaning products, including laundry detergent packs, should be stored in a locked cabinet or drawer and out of the reach of children. A child safety latch is an appropriate alternative.