Airway compromise in children exposed to single-use laundry detergent pods: a poison center observational case series

Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Mar;33(3):349-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2014.11.044. Epub 2014 Dec 3.


Introduction: Single-use laundry detergent pods (LDPs) were introduced to the United States in 2010 but had been available in Europe as early as 2001. Case reports of unintentional exposures noted vomiting, ocular injuries, respiratory depression, and central nervous system depression. We summarize clinical effects from unintentional LDP exposures reported to a single poison center over 15 months.

Methods: Electronic poison center records were searched using verbatim field and both product and generic codes to identify laundry pod exposures from January 1, 2012, through April 9, 2013. Clinical effects were abstracted to a database and summarized using descriptive statistics.

Results: We identified 131 cases between March 2012 and April 2013. Median (interquartile range) age was 2.0 (1.5) years with 4 adult cases; all were coded as unintentional. The most common route was ingestion (120) followed by ocular (14) and dermal (6). Some patients had multiple routes of exposure. Of ingestion exposures, 79 (66%) were managed at home; and 41 (34%) were evaluated in a hospital, of which 9 patients were admitted. The median (interquartile range) age of admitted patients was 1.4 (1.1) years. Relevant findings in these admitted children included emesis (78%), central nervous system depression (22%), upper airway effects (56%), lower respiratory symptoms (33%), seizure (n = 1), and intubation (67%). One child with emesis initially managed at home was subsequently intubated for respiratory distress.

Discussion: Exposure to LDP can cause significant toxicity, particularly in infants and toddlers. Compared to traditional detergents, clinicians should be aware of the potential for airway compromise following exposure to LDP.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Detergents / poisoning*
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Poison Control Centers*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / chemically induced*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / chemically induced*
  • Virginia
  • Vomiting / chemically induced*


  • Detergents