10/11/2014 11:13 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Liquid Laundry Capsules Poison A Child Every Hour


Liquid laundry capsules that look like sweets are responsible for poisoning a child every hour, according to a new report.

The detergent pods, which are full of concentrated chemicals, have become increasingly popular since they came on the market more than a decade ago because they are quicker to use and make less mess than washing powder.

But experts say young children are being put in danger because they mistake the capsules for sweets, toys or juice and bite into them.

Parents have now been urged to revert back to traditional boxes of powder to keep their children safe.

The alert comes after researchers at the US Nationwide Children's Hospital found that between 2012 and 2013, U.S. poison control centres received reports of 17,230 children younger than six years old swallowing, inhaling, or otherwise being exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent pods.

That's nearly one young child every hour.

A total of 769 young children were hospitalised during that period, an average of one per day. One child died. One and two year-olds accounted for nearly two-thirds of cases because children that age often put items in their mouths as a way of exploring their environments.

Almost half the children were sick after coming into contact with the concentrated alkaline solutions, while other symptoms include coughing or choking, eye pain, irritation, drowsiness or lethargy and red eye or conjunctivitis were other complaints.

It follows research in this country which revealed almost 1,500 cases of poisoning from detergent capsules in three years.

The study by Public Health England's National Poisons Information Service found that of the patients treated for poisoning between May 2009 to July 2012, 96 per cent were children under the age of five.

Eight out of ten cases involved children swallowing the substance, with other cases including skin burns and contact with the eyes.

Professor Simon Thomas, the unit's consultant clinical toxicologist said: "We advise parents of young children to store liquid detergent capsules out of reach in high cupboards and to always put them away immediately after use."

He said parents should always seek advice from a GP or NHS 111 if their child had contact with a liquid detergent capsule.

He advised: "If a child has swallowed the contents of a liquid detergent capsule they usually cough, choke or vomit soon after ingestion and may occasionally become drowsy."

Chief of toxicology Dr Marcel Casavant said: "Laundry detergent pods are small, colourful, and may look like candy or juice to a young child.

"It can take just a few seconds for children to grab them, break them open, and swallow the toxic chemicals they contain, or get the chemicals in their eyes."

While some manufacturers have changed the designs in this country so containers are not see-through and have child proof latches, some are still available in clear containers that can be easily opened.

Dr Gary Smith director of the hospital's Centre for Injury Research and Policy said no detergent pod was 'truly child resistant' and said parents were better not buying them at all.

He said: "Parents of young children should use traditional detergent instead of detergent pods."