Tide Pod challenge goes viral


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Shelf of Tide Pods readily available at local grocery store.

Pearl Ashton, Editor-In-Chief

Poison control centers have received over 50,000 calls about laundry packets over the past five years, the majority of those accidents involved children younger than five years old. But according to the American Association of Poison Control Center (AAPCC), 13-19 year olds have been responsible for more than 130 initial exposures since 2016, and over 90 calls have been made about teenagers ingesting Tide Pods in just the past few weeks.

Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post said, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning to parents several years ago about the liquid laundry-detergent packets. The agency said the capsules — which are colorful, squishy and smell good — are attractive to young children but contain ‘highly concentrated, toxic detergent’ that can cause harm.”

Videos of teenagers biting into the brightly colored liquid laundry-detergent packets have been circulating social media. It is not sure of when this internet challenge started, but it has been attracting teenagers to participate, which is causing serious damage.

Tide Pods are poison. Liquid laundry-detergents do not contain the same things as regular laundry detergent. “It has a higher concentration of surfactants, chemicals that are responsible for stain removal,” Eric J. Moorhead, president and principal scientist of Good Chemistry LLC.

Alfred Aleguas, managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, Florida, said, “Because many teens may not have had the need for a thorough physical exam, some may not know they have underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, that could put them at a higher risk for complications.”

The ingredients in laundry pods might also cause seizures, fluid in the lungs, respiratory arrest, a change in blood pressure, even coma or death, according to AAPCC.

The contents of laundry pods vary from brand to brand, but they usually consist of ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, and what chemists call “long-chain polymers”, usually known as soap. These ingredients have the potential to burn through the lining in your stomach. It literally eats away the tissue that makes up your gums and inner cheeks, and the same thing can happen to your esophagus, stomach, and other parts of your gastrointestinal tract as the ingredients travel through your digestive system.

Children and teens can become ill by aspirating on the liquid by inhaling it in their lungs, or by ingesting it.

“Children who have been exposed to the capsules have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness. The consequences can be much worse,” said Bever. “Since 2012, eight deaths have been reported among children 5 or younger, according to the AAPCC.”

“Tide did not respond to requests for comment, but its parent company, Procter & Gamble, told The Fresno Bee that the pods are meant strictly for use in the wash,” said Bever.

“Our laundry packs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes, and they’re used safely in millions of households every day,” the company said in a statement. “They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up, closed and away from children. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if it is meant as a joke.”