Child dies after eating detergent pod

Experts warn about dangers of potent detergent packs, pods

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Local 6 has learned that laundry detergent may be to blame for the death of a 1-year-old child.

Kissimmee police say the boy was with his mother at a shelter for battered women on Friday when he ate a highly concentrated pack of laundry detergent and later died.

The medical examiner told Local 6 it could take up to 12 weeks to make an official ruling on the cause of death.

However, Terri Durdaller, a spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families sent Local 6 this statement:

"The death ... is a tragedy. It reminds all of us as parents the dangers of leaving household cleaning supplies around our little ones. Unfortunately, on average we lose 20 children each year to accidental poisoning in the state of Florida," said Durdaller. "We have had prior history with this family and at this time our investigation is open and ongoing. We continue to work with law enforcement as the investigation moves forward into the circumstances surrounding the poisoning."

Experts warned about the dangers of the potent detergent packs or pods, especially since young children often confuse them for toys or candy. The moment the detergent pack touches water, it starts to dissolve and for a child who puts it in their mouth, it can lead to big problems.

"Probably these are not the best products to be in the homes of young children," said Dr. Cynthia Younger of the Florida Poison Center. "There are certainly other forms of laundry detergent available. But if they're going to be purchased, they need to be locked up, in a very high place so the children can't get them."

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2012, poison centers received reports of 6,231 exposures to the highly concentrated packets of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger.

From Jan. 1 to July 31, 2013, 5,753 young kids have been exposed. Common symptoms include vomiting, wheezing and gasping for air and the packs should always be kept out of a child's reach.

The Poison Center said May 2012 is when the first cases started in Florida.

In response to the growing problem, Tide announced in July it will no longer use clear packaging on its detergent pods, hoping that opaque packaging will prevent kids from confusing it with candy. However, Tide pods in clear packaging are still on store shelves in Central Florida.

"Well you have to understand this is a relatively new product," said Younger. "These particular pods were only introduced last year, so of course in 2011 we had no reports of exposure to these particular types of pods, because they didn't exist."

Kissimmee police told Local 6 they are still working on their investigation report, which will then be forwarded to the state attorney's office. It will be up to prosecutors to determine whether anyone will face charges in the child's death.

However, police said it was not intentional and the mother was not aware of how potent the detergent packets are.

If something does happen call Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

About the Author:

Lisa Bell has been in Central Florida since 2007, covering the big stories that impact our community. Lisa was promoted to News 6 evening news co-anchor in May 2014.