PhotoAbout a year and a half ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) put out a warning about dangers connected to single-load liquid laundry packets, which are filled with highly concentrated, toxic chemicals. A 7-month-old in Florida died from swallowing the soap.

CPSC has received about 1,230 reports of children unintentionally injuring themselves with packets. Injuries include swallowing the detergent and getting the chemical in their eyes or on their skin. The Poison Help Line reports even more -- nearly 17,500.

Changes in the works

Several companies that make these packets -- Cot ‘n Wash, Dial, Procter & Gamble, and Sun Products -- have agreed to make some changes to begin addressing these safety concerns.

Here are some of the changes so far:

  • Safety standards: Makers and sellers of laundry packets have come together, along with consumer advocates and CPSC staff, to start the process of creating a voluntary consensus standard. ASTM International, a standards setting organization, is overseeing this process. The goal is for all of the members to work together, as quickly as possible, to craft a strong safety standard that meaningfully protects children from these products.
  • Opaque packaging: Part of the allure of these packets for young children is that they can look like familiar items such as candy, toys and teething products. Companies have changed the containers that hold the packets to be opaque.
  • Labels and Warnings: “Keep Out of Reach of Children” and “Keep Contents Out of Eyes” safety warning stickers and graphics have been placed in multiple places on the containers. Also, look for posters and other warnings near laundry packets in stores. Warning labels alone are not the answer, but are part of a larger system of safety.

In addition, companies are researching a switch to containers that are more difficult for children to open. Safety latches -- both on containers and on cabinets -- can be a deterrent to children getting access to these packets. As with all household cleaning products, make sure to keep these packets tightly closed in the original containers and out of sight and out of reach of young children.

These companies also report that they are researching chemical formulations of the laundry detergent in the packets, with the goal to find formulations that remain effective, but are less toxic.

What to do

Follow these safety tips if you use these products in your home:

  • Do not let children handle laundry packets
  • Do not puncture or take packets apart
  • Do not leave loose packets around – keep them stored securely in the container
  • Store out of a child’s sight and reach in their original containers
  • Keep containers closed and dry
  • Read and follow package warnings and instructions
  • Remember, these packets can quickly dissolve upon contact with water, wet hands and saliva. They can also rupture, releasing the chemicals into eyes. If you or your child swallows or is exposed to these chemicals, call Poison Help immediately at (800) 222-1222.

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