Dr. Murray Feingold: Keep laundry detergent packets away from kids
Young children are very curious, and unfortunately they don’t always appreciate the potential dangers they may be facing when their curiosity gets the best of them – which is quite often.
For example, their fleeting eyes alight on a very brightly colored laundry detergent packet that resembles a similar package that contained those sweet tasting goodies called candy. Before you know it, Junior’s busy hands grab the packet, rip it open and its contents are now in the child’s mouth ready to be swallowed.
Although the packets resemble little packages of candy, it is not candy that the child is exposed to. They contain dangerous, toxic, chemicals that are associated with devastating medical consequences
A recent study exposed some troublesome statistics. During a two-year period, poison control centers reported that 17,230 children came in contact with such laundry detergent packets. Of this group, the symptoms in 769 youngsters were serious enough to require hospitalization and at times, admission to the intensive care unit. The majority of children admitted to the hospital, 73 percent, were younger than three.
When the chemicals reach the child’s mouth he or she may start coughing or choking and may aspirate the chemicals into the lungs. The chemicals can also cause irritation of the eyes or damage the mouth, skin and stomach.
Fortunately, last month legislation was introduced to correct this situation. The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act would require the United States Consumer Safety Commission to review the product and its packaging to make certain they meet already-existing standards, such as child resistant packaging requirements. The packets must be less attractive to children and contain warnings concerning the potential dangers to children. Also, the chemical contents should be reevaluated so they are less toxic.
The battle to protect children from being exposed to substances that can cause them harm may seem never-ending. Many of these harmful substances are well known, like medications.
But who would have thought that laundry detergent packets would also fall in this category? In retrospect, we should have thought about it.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.