Consumer Reports: Dangers of detergent packets

CONSUMER REPORTS -- Laundry detergent packets that you just toss into the washing machine have risen in sales. But, concerns for children have also increased, with more than 20,000 calls to poison control centers since the packets went mainstream in 2012.

Alex Rohde is much better now, but it was touch and go nine months ago, after he bit into a Tide detergent pod from a package that had just been brought home from the store.

"He had so much diarrhea and so much throw-up coming out of his mouth," said Alex's mother Michelle. "It was horrible, it was bad. And when he turned blue, I would say, was probably the scariest part, except for the part when he quit breathing."

Michelle says Alex got the pod when one rolled under some furniture after the lid of the package popped open spilling all of them on the floor. He was airlifted to the hospital and ended up on a ventilator for seven days.

Consumer Reports says the candy-colored packets contain highly concentrated detergent that is toxic to ingest.

"One big issue here is with the packaging," said Dan DiClerico of Consumer Reports. "Now when these products first came out, some of the biggest manufacturers used clear containers that resembled snack jars."

Some of their lids were flimsy and not designed to deter children.

Costco made the switch to an opaque container for its Kirkland detergent and has improved the lids. Procter and Gamble, the maker of Tide, has also introduced an opaque container with a child-resistant lid.

"Another important change we think manufacturers should make: Redesign the packets themselves so that they don't look like candy," said DiClerico.

At home, the most important precaution: Keep the containers closed and out of the reach of children.

If you think your child has been injured, do as Michelle did and call the poison control hotline immediately, at 1 (800) 222-1222.

Another reason to think twice about single-use detergent packets is that Consumer Reports didn't recommend any of them in its last ratings. That's in part because they don't do well in its new cool water test.