Doctors from the Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center began tracking eye injuries from liquid laundry and dishwasher detergent pods after noticing an unusual increase in patients after 2012.
Dr. Michael Gray and Dr. Constance West reported 10 cases of children under 4 years old who were treated for eye injuries caused by detergent pods. During the same time period, 21 other children were treated in the emergency department for poisoning caused by ingesting detergent pods.
For the children with eye injuries, 2 cases involved a child biting down on the pod, 7 cases resulted from the child squeezing the pod in their hands, and cause of the last case was unknown.
All of the children had severely bloodshot eyes and corneal abrasions ranging in size from 3-mm to a nearly complete defect of the cornea. This type of injury is essentially a scratch or scrape on the cornea, which is like a clear window on the surface of the eye. Three children also had puffy eyes and/or redness of the mucous membranes.
The researchers weaned that because the detergent in laundry pods is designed to be concentrated, they often contain higher levels of surfactants than traditional detergent, making them more likely to cause injury when they are ingested or come in contact with the eyes.
Although many major manufacturers of detergent pods have changed the packaging to make them less attractive to children, many off-brand and generic products have not made the same changes. The pods are often brightly-colored, sweet-smelling, candy-sized products that are packaged in clear “candy jars” with flimsy lids.
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