(WPRI) -- It's a common danger found in households nationwide and we've learned it has sent at least five Rhode Island children to the hospital. We're talking about laundry detergent pods. We've uncovered the latest numbers from poison control experts - just last year in the U.S., over 6,000 kids under the age of five ingested a detergent pod.
They're colorful and squishy. The temptation is like cookies in a cookie jar, but what's inside these boxes isn't sweet. It's highly concentrated liquid laundry detergent and children who have ingested it have experienced vomiting, wheezing, and gasping.
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Dr. Jason Hack, the Director of the Division of Medical Toxicology at Rhode Island Hospital tells us, "I think well-laid plans sometimes have unintended consequences, and this may be one of those cases."
Dr. Hack says these laundry packets, intended to dissolve in the washing machine, are unfortunately also extremely tempting to children. "It seems like common sense would make it likely a little kid would examine it and put it in their mouths," he says. When asked how many children are ingesting these pods, Dr. Hack responds, "Thousands and thousands of children."
Doctors tell us swallowing laundry detergent usually causes relatively mild symptoms but poison center experts say these detergent packets seem to be different.
Dr. Hack says children exposed to these pods 'Had a decreased level of consciousness, increased sleepiness... and there were children who were so symptomatic they had to be hospitalized and incubated to protect their airways.'
We reached out to a local mother to see how she keeps her child safe from cleaning products like these. When talking about her 3-year-old daughter, Anne-Marie Mercure says, "She's very curious, she still puts things in her mouth." She says that's why she goes out of her way to safeguard her home. Cabinet locks are a must. Experts say all parents need to be as vigilant.
In response to the alert on these detergent packets, the American Cleaning Institute, which represents the cleaning products market, says " All laundry and cleaning products should be kept out of sight and out of the reach of children."
In addition to precautions on labels, detergent manufacturers are also raising awareness of the dangers by putting signs in retail stores and in advertising.
Poison control experts say if your child ingests detergent from one of these packets, you will see symptoms within a matter of minutes, so contact poison control immediately.
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