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Toddlers still mistaking laundry-detergent pods for candy

9:28 AM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA, GA (WXIA) - We heard Friday from a Commerce man telling us about another child being hospitalized because the boy thought that the laundry-detergent pods he found at home were candy, and put one in his mouth.

In fact, that is still happening, on average, multiple times a day across the country.

The kids get violently ill when they put them in their mouths and the detergent gets into their digestive and respiratory systems.

The obvious solution: parents need to keep the pods out of the reach of their children.

Period. End of story.

But there is more:

Terry Manus of Commerce told us that this past Saturday was a rough day for his grandson, two year old Collin Lankford, who lives in Maryland.

Collin ended up in the hospital, with a breathing tube, violently ill. Manus said Collin had tried to eat one of the detergent pods that was near the washing machine at home

Collin swallowed it, and breathed it into his lungs.

He's okay, now.

Now the whole family, in Georgia and Maryland, wants all parents of toddlers to hear what happened so other kids won't get hurt.

Collin's mom, Stephanie Lankford, said Friday night from Maryland that she never realized until this past Saturday how attractive the pods are to kids who think they are candy in a transparent, plastic candy jar.

"Looking at it, I just thought it was a great product, it worked great," she said. "If you're a parent of a toddler, you really need to think twice about bringing this product into your home. It looks like candy. A two year old sees it and they don't see that it's laundry detergent."

In 2012 in the U.S., 6,271 children five and younger got sick trying to eat laundry detergent pods, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

151 of them were in Georgia, according to the Georgia Poison Center.

2013 is on track to surpass those numbers.

Tide, for example, is responding.

Tide is introducing non-transparent packaging for the pods, so kids can't see what's inside.

Those non-transparent containers had not made it, yet, to the shelves of one big-box supermarket in Atlanta, picked at random, Friday night.

At that store, all brands of laundry detergent pods were in transparent containers -- either in plastic bags, or in plastic jars.

Another change -- Tide is adding a strip of re-usable tape across the lids of the plastic jars, as a way of deterring todders' little fingers from trying to open the jars.

And Tide is now using new lids that are more difficult for toddlers to figure out how to open.

A pediatrician, Dr. Tom DeWitt, on Tide's website, states the obvious -- but apparently necessary -- advice to parents:

"Keep all household laundry and cleaning products stored properly and out of the reach of their little ones," Dr. DeWitt says.

Or, as Collin's mom suggested Friday, keep the detergent pods out of the homes of toddlers, period.

"I think that [kid-proofing the packaging] is a positive thing," she said, "it's going to help. But I think the best thing that can be done is for parents of toddlers to be aware and not even bring it into your homes."

There have been no deaths caused by the detergent pods, and the pods are just as safe -- in the washing machine -- as any other detergent.

One more point Collin's mom made Friday night -- a few months ago, she just happened to put the phone number of the local poison control center into her cell phone. This past Saturday, she was able to call the center immediately when she turned to see Collin swallow the detergent.

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