Laundry packet standard doesn’t go far enough

Laundry packet standard doesn’t go far enough

The convenience of laundry detergent packets has a dangerous downside: Tens of thousands of children have been exposed to the colorful, bite-sized packages since their introduction in 2012, leading to hundreds of hospital visits for injuries that include seizures, vomiting, and respiratory arrest. ASTM International, the non-profit standards-setting organization, is developing a voluntary standard designed to make the packets safer. Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, joined other consumer groups this week in casting a negative vote for the initial proposal, arguing that its protections don’t go far enough.

The standard calls for child-resistant outer packaging and clearer warning labels. Those are two positive changes, but other tough protections are needed, especially since many children gain access to loose packets that have been removed from their original container. That includes the one known fatality, involving a 7-month old Florida boy who ate a laundry packet that had been left out on the bed where he was sleeping.

In light of this, we believe the ASTM standard should address the potential failure of outer-package deterrents by also requiring the laundry packets themselves to be individually wrapped. Several varieties of single-use dishwasher detergent, including Finish Powerball Tabs, use this packaging method, so we know it’s feasible. We would also support ASTM efforts to fully adopt requirements (based on those already adopted by the European Union) that address the taste and burst strength of the film covering each packet. That way, even if a child were to access a laundry packet, the chance of actual exposure would be reduced.

With another 30 or so children being exposed to laundry packets each day, we’re hopeful that ASTM will take our position into consideration as it moves the voluntary standard to the next stage. Meanwhile, we continue to support the Detergent Poisoning And Child Safety (PACS) Act of 2015, introduced earlier this year in the House and Senate.     

If you have kids or take care of young children, keep detergent packets out of their reach. And if a child does ingest a packet, call the poison-control helpline immediately at 800-222-1222.

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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