The New Serial Killer: Laundry Detergent

An impaired driver, bombs, guns, and radiation. These are a few things in a long list of items that can harm children, but recently, a new item has joined this list — laundry detergent pods.
According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy, every 45 minutes a child is reported to the Poison Control Center for the consumption of one of these pods. Unfortunately, these pods are particularly harmful because even the slightest amount of concentrated laundry detergent has the ability to cause cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Detergent manufacturers are partly to blame for the recent increase in consumption of detergent pods for their refusal to change packaging, product design, and lack of acknowledgement of the effects of consumption. Because of these reasons, laundry detergent manufacturers should be challenged by members of the public to quickly make changes to their products in order to prevent untimely deaths and injuries to any additional children.

The pod manufacturers are inadequately taking steps to prevent injuries. There is a delay in modifying packaging to become safer in response to improvements suggested by regulatory agencies. According to Dr. Michael Beuhler, the director of the Carolinas Poison Center, producers have continued to change their product packaging to prevent injury, but have not completely fulfilled product safety standards. Changes such as the addition of locking elements and opaque containers have been implemented, but manufacturers have resisted the idea of individual wrapping to add additional safety elements. It can be speculated that this change is opposed because compliance would require widespread changes to the manufacturing process. This change would result in the use of more materials, which would force companies to spend more money. This is a clear example of how manufacturers are placing profits before consumer safety.
Detergent manufacturing companies are continuing to design colorful products in order to make them more appealing to the consumer.

According to psychologist Stephen Palmer, humans are biologically programed to prefer certain colors, and soap fabricators are exploiting this trait. Manufacturers are abusing this in order to boost sales of their product at the cost of safety. The pods continue to boast vibrant colors despite this causing them to resemble candy. Similarly, this is another example of corporations placing profits before consumer safety; manufactures are continuing to cause injury because of their reluctance to change product design. Unfortunately, change might not occur because these colors may be the sole reason why a consumer picks a certain brand of cleaner over another. This forces manufactures to limit how drastically they can make changes to the product’s appearance.
Manufacturers continue to market these pods with inadequate amounts of safety information and warnings, which describe the potentially harmful effects of the pods.

This was apparent when safety experts at the Consumer Reports reached out to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate the formula of the pods. Despite submitting a Freedom of Information Act to determine the formulation of the pods in order to better educate consumers on the effects, manufacturers have still not provided information about the composition of these pods. Because of this consumers cannot be educated about the potential health dangers of misusing the pods and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) cannot educate the public about the dangers of these pods. It is difficult for consumers to be educated about prevention and exposure when the DTSC cannot provide resources because of lack of information from the manufactures. Companies should be mandated to provide information to assist public health agencies in educating the public and developing plans of actions in cases of exposure.

Conclusively, manufacturers are responsible for the recent spike in injuries. The evidence above demonstrates that manufacturers are not taking sufficient steps in order to prevent injuries. For example, producers have continued to ignore requests by regulatory agencies to improve their packaging and have refused to make changes in the design of their products.
It is fundamental that the public, as consumers, call for manufacturers to change their methods. By signing local petitions to remove laundry pods from stores and spreading the word about their potential danger, consumers can bring a sudden change to current practices and help ensure that other children do not lose their life due to a laundry detergent.

Brijesh Sharma is a fourth-year public health sciences major. He can be reached at