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Study attributes spike in chemical eye burns among toddlers to laundry pods

Outside of perhaps new stain-fighting capabilities or a new scent, most of us wouldn't identify laundry products as an area of consumer goods in which much innovation was possible. While this is true for the most part, real innovation did come to this area back in 2012, when manufacturers introduced the now-ubiquitous laundry pods, meaning those single-load packets of concentrated detergent.

Problems soon emerged after the release of laundry pods, as reports of small children being taken to the hospital after accidentally ingesting the colorful packets, which they mistook for candy, greatly increased in number.

While the traditional line of thought was that the injuries caused by laundry pods were confined to accidental ingestion or inhalation, a recently released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Prevention reveals that a significant number of children also suffered chemical eye burns.

After examining data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the researchers, whose study is published in the latest edition of JAMA Ophthalmology, found that the number of chemical eye burns suffered by children between 3-4 years old increased by over 30 times from 2012 through 2015, and that laundry pods were behind 26 percent of these eye injuries.

The researchers determined that the majority of injuries occurred when children would squeeze or break a pod, sending the detergent directly into their eyes, or onto their hands and then into their eyes after rubbing.

In the event anyone questions the severity of getting concentrated laundry detergent in the eyes, consider that it can cause permanent scarring on the cornea resulting in permanent vision loss.

The good news in all this is that the manufacturers of laundry pods have voluntarily made a number of changes to their design in an attempt to make them safer, including selling them in opaque plastic to make them less visually appealing to children, infusing the outer film with a bitter taste to discourage ingestion, and enhancing their strength to avoid accidental bursting. Indeed, one industry group says 99 percent of laundry pods sold now comply with these standards.

It would appear that these efforts have proven successful, as poison control centers across the U.S. reported over 1,000 fewer calls relating to accidents concerning laundry pods and young children from 2015 to 2016.

As for the Johns Hopkins study, experts indicate that it serves to illustrate a valuable point for manufacturers going forward.

"[T]his study shows just how quickly a safety issue with a new product can harm the most vulnerable among us,” said an official with Consumer Reports. “We strongly urge all manufacturers to prioritize consumer safety from the start, including when a product is being designed and hasn't yet hit the market.”      

Here's hoping manufacturers heed this advice …

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured by a dangerous consumer product, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions.

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