A recent publication in the Journal of Pediatrics has sparked a fury of news stories about the danger posed to small children by laundry detergent pods. The study revealed that at least 17,230 children younger than the age of six were exposed to laundry detergent pods from 2012-2013, and that the vast majority of exposure was the result of oral ingestion. The most common ailments relating to ingestion included vomiting, coughing, choking, nausea, and drowsiness. Some of the more serious effects included coma, pulmonary edema, and respiratory arrest.
Even a casual look at many of the detergent pods on the market helps to explain why so many children are getting sick. Quite simply, the pods look like candy. The brightly colored gels or liquids beneath a thin transparent coating make the pods indistinguishable from candy for many younger children. Add to that the higher toxicity of the concentrated formula used in the pods and you have a recipe for disaster.
Public outcry and education have already prompted the American Cleaning Institute to issue voluntary manufacturer guidelines relating to packaging and warning labels accompanying detergent pods. In part, the guidelines recommend that manufacturers make the coating of these detergent pods opaque so as to obscure what is now an alluring, brightly colored liquid. The guidelines also provide manufacturers with a sample warning for consumers and suggest that they place it in a prominent location on their packaging. Reporting and public education will certainly help in prompting manufactures to make reasonable changes to what may well be a defectively designed product, but their reaction time can seem glacial in light of the serious danger.
Product liability law has a strong role to play in helping the individual children hurt by these products and in ensuring that manufacturers make the necessary changes to their products to protect against future harm. This is especially true in a world where many state and federal regulatory agencies lack the funding and capacity to quickly and effectively identify unreasonably hazardous products and to eliminate the unnecessary danger they pose. If your child has been injured by a household product or toy, do not hesitate to contact Rourke and Blumenthal for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.