Child Safety Measures for Packaging of Laundry Pods Are Approved

Child Safety Measures for Packaging of Laundry Pods Are Approved


Every year, increasing numbers of children eat or inhale the contents of brightly colored packets of laundry detergent that they mistake for candy or teething toys.

On Tuesday, the first safety standard for packaging and labeling so-called laundry pods was approved by A.S.T.M. International, an organization that helps establish product standards.


The recommendations were negotiated over the past year by a group of industry representatives, consumer and medical groups and officials from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Richard Sedlak, the executive vice president of technical affairs at the American Cleaning Institute, an industry group, said the recommendations would greatly reduce the frequency of childhood poisonings by laundry pods.

But adherence to the new packaging standard is not mandatory, and it was not immediately clear when manufacturers would begin to redesign their products.

A growing number of children ingest laundry detergent pods, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

In 2014, 11,862 children younger than 6 ingested or inhaled the contents of laundry packets, up from 10,273 in 2013, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The tally for the first eight months of 2015 was 8,428, roughly 500 more than during the same period last year.

At that pace, the number of accidents this year will be the highest on record. In July, Consumer Reports stopped recommending laundry pods or packets “until the adoption of tougher safety measures leads to a meaningful drop in injuries.”

The new standard approved by A.S.T.M., the American Society for Testing and Materials, calls for manufacturers to add a bitter taste to the soluble film encasing the detergent to deter children from putting the pods in their mouths, and to make the film take longer to dissolve once wet.

The recommendations also include options for making containers harder for curious toddlers to open — for example, closures that require dexterity or strength.

The standards group also urged manufacturers to use opaque containers (some companies already do) so children cannot see the pods, with warning labels placed on the front and back.

Dr. Frederick M. Henretig, an emergency medicine doctor and the senior toxicologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the idea of giving the pods a bitter taste was “ludicrous.”

“Kids bite into these things almost instantly as they pop them into their mouths,” he said. But he endorsed the use of packages with a truly child-resistant closure.

“The game is won in keeping it out of the kid’s mouth,” he said. “Once it goes in, it’s game over.”

The new packaging standard does not tell manufacturers to reformulate their products to make them less toxic to children, and does not suggest that manufacturers tone down the pods’ colorful appearance.

“If you are going to go through the process of making the outer container opaque, why not make the pod itself opaque?” said Dr. Steven M. Marcus, the executive and medical director at the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System.

Over all, he said, the standard is “better than nothing, but I have grave doubts it will make a big difference in unintentional poisonings.”

While the new packaging standard is voluntary, the Consumer Product Safety Commission may pursue recalls of products that do not meet it. If poisonings do not decline after manufacturers put the changes in place, Mr. Kaye said, the group convened by A.S.T.M. will discuss whether detergents should be made less toxic.