Laundry Pod-Related Ocular Burns Increasingly Common in Toddlers

Between 2012 and 2015, pod-related eye burns among toddlers increased 3000%.

In a new report letter published online today by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Johns Hopkins University find that laundry pod-related eye injuries increased 3000% between 2012 and 2015.

The dissolvable pouches of detergent have become increasingly prevalent in American homes, and while it may be predictable that an influx of small, brightly colored pouches full of chemicals into the household would be associated with risk for young children, the study provides a specific look at just how the cleaning items can be harmful. Pre-filled with a single load of laundry’s worth of liquid or powder detergent, they contain perfumes, bleaching agents, and other common cleaning chemicals long known to cause burns.

In the four-year period, 1,201 ocular burns from the items occurred in children aged three and four, with a massive upswing from 12 incidents in 2012 to 480 in 2015. The researchers say the injuries were typically the result of rupture due to handling, with ocular burns occurring when children subsequently touched their eyes with the chemicals on their hands. The vast majority of the toddlers impacted were three year olds, who accounted for 912 of the 1,201 incidents.

The burns represent a portion of injuries related to the products, which mostly hit market around 2012. In 2014, there were over 11,000 overall injuries and poisoning situations related to laundry pods, or pacs, as some brands call them, and the totals from the first half of 2015 showed the pace continuing to rise.

The proportion of all chemical ocular burns that the devices represent rose from less than 1% in 2012 to 26% in 2015. Data from the report was drawn from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The authors, led by R. Sterling Haring, DO, MPH, recommend in the report that, in addition to storing the items away from children, “prevention strategies might include redesigning packaging to reduce the attractiveness of these products to young children and improving their strength and durability.”

For their part, the manufacturers are likely aware of the problem. In 2015, a series of class-action lawsuits were filed against household chemical giant Proctor & Gamble in relation to their popular Tide Pods: one for the less-serious issue of stains in laundry, another two for poisoning and burns. A report published in Pediatrics that said such pods sent one child to the hospital every day was referenced in one of the suits.

Laundry pods now make up about 15% of the laundry detergent market, according to Fortune.

The new report letter, titled “Detergent Pod—Related Eye Injuries Among Preschool-Aged Children,” was published online today by JAMA Ophthalmology.