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NJ Child Critically Ill from Concentrated Packets of Laundry Detergent


NJ Poison ControlOn June 19, 2012, the NJ Poison Control Center was consulted about a 2-year-old NJ toddler who ingested a single laundry detergent pack (aka packet or pod). The child developed excessive vomiting, lethargy, and coughing with respiratory distress. The child had to be placed on a mechanical ventilator, according to Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D, Director of Drug Information and Professional Education at the NJ Poison Center.

On May 18, along with the American Association of Poison Control Centers, NJPIES issued a press release that was distributed to all major media outlets urging parents to keep highly concentrated “single dose packs” of laundry detergent locked up and away from children. This case suggests that the public needs to “double down” its efforts at prevention.

Nationally, poison centers are continuing to receive 10 to 20 calls each day about exposures of children to laundry detergents packaged in small, single-dose packets. The toddler in NJ is the tenth child reported by poison centers to require mechanical ventilation. Some children have been exposed when the product burst after putting it into their mouths resulting in serious complications. Others have gotten the product in their eyes, resulting in significant eye irritation.

The following are examples of exposures to children who have become ill from concentrated laundry detergent packets:

  • 10 minutes after a 20-month-old swallowed a laundry detergent packet, the child developed profuse vomiting, wheezing, and gasping and then became unresponsive to even painful stimuli.
  • A 15-month-old who bit into a pack and swallowed a mouthful, had profuse vomiting and, after arrival at a hospital, had to be put on a ventilator.
  • A 17-month-old bit into a packet and then rapidly developed drowsiness, vomited, and breathed the product into the lungs, and had to be put on a ventilator.

“The rapid onset of potentially life threatening symptoms is of great concern” said Dr. Ruck. “Although we aren’t certain what in the product is making the children sick, we urge all parents and caregivers to make sure laundry detergent packs are not accessible to young kids.”

The NJ Poison Experts recommend the following steps:

  • Always keep detergents locked up and out of the reach of children.
  • Follow the specific disposal instructions on the label.
  • If you think a child has been exposed to a laundry detergent packet, call the NJ Poison Experts at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

Call to Action—Help is Just a Phone Call Away

The NJ Poison Experts are always here to help medical professionals, parents, educators, caregivers, and the general public with accidents or questions involving medicines, chemicals or household products, plants, environmental contaminants, or other poisons. There are no silly questions. Trained medical staff are available to answer a question, quell a fear, provide advice, or intervene to get emergency services on site and prepped to provide the needed protocol in the fastest response time. Help is available in over 150 languages; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. When in doubt, check it out—prevention is truly the best possible medicine. You may also chat or text in using our NJ Poison Control website.

Poison experts recommend programming the Poison Help line (800-222-1222) into all family cell phones as well as programming it as a speed dial number on landlines (home and office). In addition, prominently post it near all phones in the home and office.

Follow NJ Poison Control on Facebook and Twitter (@NJPoisonCenter) for breaking news, safety tips, trivia questions, etc. Be a poison prevention superhero—share poison prevention tips with your family (including children), friends, and coworkers.

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