Consumer Reports Finds Liquid Laundry Detergent Pods Pose Lethal Risk for Adults with Dementia

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CR recommends keeping these potent detergent-filled packets out of households with cognitively-impaired adults—and away from children

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In one case, an 87-year-old woman with dementia, living under the care of her son and daughter-in-law, in a small town in Texas, was rushed to the hospital after being found slumped over and unresponsive at home.

As part of its ongoing investigation into the potential hazards of liquid laundry packets, Consumer Reports, the leading not-for-profit consumer organization, has discovered that they can pose a lethal threat to adults with dementia who may mistake them as edible. The packets have long been regarded as a danger to young children.

In one case, an 87-year-old woman with dementia, living under the care of her son and daughter-in-law, in a small town in Texas, was rushed to the hospital after being found slumped over and unresponsive at home. She had eaten two liquid laundry detergent packets. She died two days later.

CR learned about her case, and others, after filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC information showed that there had been a total of eight deaths related to ingesting laundry pods in the U.S. between 2012 and early 2017—including six adults with dementia and two young children.

Just months after laundry detergent pods or packets were introduced in 2012, Consumer Reports urged manufacturers to make them safer. In 2015 CR began advising consumers against keeping them in households where children under six years old may be present. These new findings make it clear that kids aren’t the only vulnerable population—and that some adults with dementia may be at risk, too.

“The new CPSC data highlights that these laundry detergent pods can pose a life-threatening risk. Based on this new information, we are amending our advice and recommending that family members caring for anyone who is cognitively impaired not keep packets in the home,” said James Dickerson, chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports. “We also continue to believe that manufacturers should modify the appearance of laundry packs, so they do not look like candy.”

The convenient single-load packets are designed to dissolve in the wash and release highly concentrated liquid detergent. Known variously as Pods, Mighty Pacs, Power Pacs, Power-Caps, PowerBlasts, PowerCore Pacs, and Flings, their concentrated formulation poses a greater risk than conventional detergent, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

“Manufacturers of liquid laundry detergent packets are fully committed to reducing accidental access to these products, which are used safely by millions of consumers every day,” says Brian Sansoni, a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, a trade group that includes detergent manufacturers.

Between 2012 and 2015, the AAPCC received reports of 38,021 people coming in negative contact with laundry pods in some way: ingesting or inhaling the liquid detergent; getting it in their eyes; or absorbing it through their skin. Children age 5 and younger account for 91 percent of the reported incidents. Apart from a few anecdotes, the AAPCC doesn’t release incidents related to adults with dementia.

“We very much hope that the steps manufacturers are taking will prevent deaths and injuries associated with these products. But if we don’t see a meaningful decline in the number of incidents, we will press for further action—including for lawmakers to put mandatory standards in place,” said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.

For more information on laundry pods, the complete findings of CR’s investigation, and information on what consumers can do to make their home safer, visit http://www.CR.org

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit consumer organization, working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on food and product safety, financial reform, health reform, and many other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to prohibit predatory lending practices, combat dangerous toxins in food, and cut hospital-acquired infections. Consumer Reports tests and rates thousands of products and services in its 50-plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center, and consumer research center. It also works to enact pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., in statehouses, and in the marketplace. An independent nonprofit, Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment, or other support from the companies that create the products it evaluates.

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