More Dangerous to Kids Than Marijuana: Laundry Detergent Pods

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The creation of medical marijuana programs and the legalization of recreational cannabis almost always seem to bring with them hysterical opining about the dangers legalized marijuana poses to children. Prohibitionists are trying to re-ignite the guttering flames of reefer madness in this country by frantically waving statistics about emergency room visits by children exposed to marijuana in Colorado. Cannabis reform activists often counter the “won’t someone please think of the children” hysteria with discussions of labeling, personal responsibility, and best parenting practices, which prohibitionist love to simply ignore.

As it turns out, many of those people freaking out about the possibility of their kids eating a marijuana-infused cookie by mistake have something far more dangerous in their house: laundry detergent pods. They’ve become incredibly popular, are brightly colored, and are very tempting to curious little humans. And unlike marijuana in any form, those laundry detergent pods can actually kill children. The makers of laundry detergent pod products have voluntarily added safety labeling to the packaging for detergent pods and turned the exterior packaging opaque so that children can’t be visually tempted by the pods inside.

Today’s mainstream media coverage about the danger posed by these seemingly innocuous cleaning tools was inspired by a report in the journal Pediatrics.
that there was one confirmed fatality found in a study of Tide pod poisonings from 2012-2013. During that time period, there were 17,230 reported “exposures” to the pods in children under the age of six, which in many cases (nearly 80% of them) meant that a child had eaten the pod. 73.5% of these cases involved children under the age of 3 years old. The study was conducted by analyzing reports made to the National Poison Data System.

Forget locking up the medibles; people should be locking up the laundry detergent. 4.4% of those exposed children (758 kids) were hospitalized and 7.5% (1,292) had a moderate or major medical outcome. 102 children (about 0.6% of those exposed) required tracheal intubation (meaning a tube had to be put down their throat to allow them to breathe), one of whom was the fatality mentioned earlier.

Folks have been waving the roughly 70 hospitalizations of minors for marijuana exposure in Colorado in 2012 and the trickle of cases into Colorado hospitals this year ( like proof that legalization is truly dangerous to minors, and some doctors have been warning that they expect that the number of childhood marijuana exposure cases this year will double, which could bring an average Colorado hospital’s total up to several cases a month). Despite a lot of media coverage about what prohibitionists would have people believe is a serious concern, none of these cannabis-exposed children have had long term medical issues as a result of their cannabis exposure. The same can not be said about laundry detergent pod poisonings, which are happening at a much more frequent rate.

While the new packaging of laundry detergent pods may help deter child interest in the product and alert parents to the potential for poisoning, at the end of the day, the best thing those who care for kids can do with their laundry detergent pods (and cannabis and alcohol and over the counter pain medicine, etc) is to keep these products stored well out of the reach of small children, preferably in a locked cabinet or closet, on the highest shelf. Switching to an all-natural, biodegradable detergent isn’t a bad idea either.

There are a lot of things in the world that pose a risk to small children. Compared with many household products, cannabis is benign and poses minimal threat. If the safety of children really is the primary concern of prohibitionists, perhaps they can focus their ire on something more deadly going forward.

For previous Ladybud Magazinearticles about parenting, click here.

Photo Credit: Austin Kirk under (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr