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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Single-load laundry packets could be harmful to kids

STILLWATER, Okla. – The new single-load detergent packets populating store shelves might make doing laundry quicker and easier, but if young children happen to get ahold of one of the packets, it could make them sick.

Usually detergents cause a mild upset stomach or possibly no symptoms at all. But, after being exposed to the single-load packets, some children have experienced excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping; serious breathing problems; and severe irritation and scratches to their eyes. In some cases, children were hospitalized.

According to a study published online Nov. 10 in the journal, “Pediatrics,” more than 17,000 children younger than 6 years old ingested, inhaled or splashed the packets in their eyes or on their skin in 2012-13. The study used data from the National Poison Data System.

“This unfortunate trend is a strong reminder to parents and caregivers to keep detergents and other laundry products out of the reach of children,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “Really, we should treat these products the same way we treat all cleaning or hazardous products we keep around the house.”

The pods are generally bright, colorful, squishy and resemble a toy or candy, easily drawing the attention of the very young. Manufacturers such as Proctor & Gamble are moving to redesign product packaging to help reduce the risk.

However, it is still up to parents and caregivers to keep the packets, and other detergents for that matter, sealed and stored up high, out of the sight and reach of children, said Peek. Do not allow children to play with the packets.

“Keep in mind just about any substance can be considered poisonous if it is used improperly, by the wrong person or in the incorrect amount,” she said. “However, cleaning products, including laundry detergent and floor cleaners, are among the most common sources of poison for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

If there is any concern a child has been exposed to one of the single-load detergent packets or any other hazardous material, call your local poison center immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.

Local poison control centers can be reached at 1-800-222-1222, and are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide free, confidential guidance.

To prepare in advance of a poison related emergency, Peek suggested requesting stickers and magnets from the local poison control center with the emergency contact number and post them on and near all the phones in the house. It is also good idea to store the number in each family member’s cell phone.

For more information, contact the local county Extension office.


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.


Leilana McKindra

Communications Specialist

Agricultural Communications Services

140 Agriculture North

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, OK 74078

Phone: 405-744-6792

Fax: 405-744-5739


Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078