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Laundry pods, brightly-colored packets of detergent supposed to make washing clothes easier, can pose a significant poisoning risk to children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were around 32,000 calls to poison help lines in 2015 for children ingesting candy-resembling laundry pods.
But it turns out those packets can be dangerous for adults, too -- especially those with dementia.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports two children and six adults have died from ingesting laundry pods in the past five years, data that may not have been released but for a Freedom of Information Act request from Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports looked at the adult deaths and found that all six victims suffered from dementia.
"As a result of this new data from the CPSC highlighting the potential risks of laundry detergent pods to adults with dementia, we are amending our advice and recommending that family members caring for anyone who is cognitively impaired not keep pods in the home," said Consumer Reports Chief Scientific Officer James Dickerson, Ph.D. "We also continue to believe that manufacturers should modify the appearance of laundry packets, so they do not look like candy."
Some pod manufacturers claim they are trying to prevent accidental poisonings by modifying their packaging. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of life among people living with dementia," Proctor & Gamble, maker of Tide Pods, told NBC News. The company also said it has been "formally collaborating" with the Alzheimer's Association to prevent future ingestion accidents.
People with moderate to severe dementia may be more likely try to eat items that aren't food, according to Consumer Reports, and people with a certain form of dementia may also become increasingly interested in putting things in their mouth, a potentially deadly combination.