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February 14, 2018

Tide Pods Challenge: High Alert for Teen Poisonings


We’ve heard of the dumb stunts teens pull but perhaps this is the dumbest. Teens are daring each other to eat Tide laundry detergent pods. Right. The concentrated laundry detergent that’s contained in candy-colored balls. Why? Videos circulating on social media platforms and video-sharing websites might be the impetus for what is known as the “Tide Pods Challenge”. They show kids biting into the packets or frying the contents in a pan before chewing them, all in an effort to try and outdo each other.

Again why? There is no reasonable answer other than some think it’s a cool thing to do.

The History of Tide Pods & Children

It’s been a problem in the past. Because they are brightly colored and resemble candy, small children were popping them into their mouth and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning to parents.

According to the Washington Post, 10,500 children under the age of five were exposed to the capsules. Two toddlers ate them and died. Seniors with dementia are vulnerable too. Eight died after eating the detergent packets.

Consumers Union says the manufacturer, Proctor & Gamble, should do more. Make the pods less colorful and less like candy with two separate swirls of blue and orange. But that hasn’t happened.

Some teens are playing a dangerous game when it comes to the Tide Pods Challenge. Farah & Farah explains why.

But then the older kids decided to try it for themselves. U.S. poison control centers report nearly 220 teens took part last year, while already in 2018 there have been 142 teens who have taken the Tide Pod Challenge, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). The average age is 13 to 19.

Over the last five years, there have been 50,000 calls to poison control centers about liquid laundry packet exposure.

Exposure can lead to hospitalization with loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, vomiting and seizures. Teens can aspirate on the suds by inhaling it into their lungs.

Eight children under the age of five have died since 2012, reports the AAPCC. Proper storage is necessary to keep the pods out of the hands of children.

What is Proctor & Gamble Doing About the Tide Pods Challenge?

Procter & Gamble could change the colors, but it has not. Instead, it has responded by making the packet plastic thicker so it is more difficult to bite through. Industrial designers talking to NPR say that the brightly colored swirls are a design choice not likely to change.

Facebook and YouTube have been removing videos referencing the teen challenges from their platforms.

Meanwhile, P&G has responded with an ad featuring New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski saying “No” to the Tide Pod challenge. The National Poison hotline number is 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979.

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