A bizarre new trend dubbed the “Tide Pod Challenge” is gaining popularity among teens on social media — and doctors say it could land them in the emergency room.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in the first month of 2018 alone, at least 86 cases of intentional misuse of the laundry packets were reported among teenagers. In 2017, there were only 53 in total.
The challenge involves people popping the small laundry detergent pacs and posting videos of themselves chewing and gagging on the oozing product online.
A thread of videos with the title “Tide Pod Challenge” have been shared to YouTube. In some videos, teens are putting the pods in frying pans and cooking them before consuming them.
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Memes have erupted all over social media.
Someone even came up with an edible Tide pod recipe.
Tide Pods are meant to be used for laundry as an alternative to powder or liquid detergent.
The silly concept of consuming the product first garnered attention in 2015 when the satirical newspaper The Onion published a column about a child who wanted to eat the red and blue detergent pod, which has a candy-like appearance.
Two years later, College Humor shared a video of a man eating an entire bowl of laundry pods and then being carted off into an ambulance. “I don’t regret it,” he said.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were more than 12,299 reported exposures to highly concentrated laundry detergent pods in 2017. Most reports involved children ages 5 and under. That’s down 14 percent since 2015, when the centers answered more than 14,000 calls.
While that number may seem high, it’s important to note that the range is well within the range of calls for other household products, the Washington Post reported.
In 2016, the control centers received more than 13,000 reports, but only about 700 resulted in “moderate” or “major” risk to the individual’s health.
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If someone swallows a small amount of the concentrated detergent in the pods, it could result in diarrhea and vomiting. And it can even creep into the lungs and burn the respiratory tract, making it incredibly difficult to breathe, Dr. Alfred Aleguas Jr., managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center told USA Today.
The D.C.-based not-for-profit National Capital Poison Center reported that biting into a pod can cause “serious injury or even death.” Rubbing the product into the eyes can make the eyes burn, too.
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And, Consumer Reports previously noted, the pods also pose lethal risks for adults with dementia.
Six adults suffering from cognitive impairment, along with two children, have died as a result of ingesting the pods, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“A meme should not become a family tragedy,” the commission warned.
A 2016 report from the Georgia Poison Center showed the number of children getting sick from detergent pods tripled over the previous four years.
In response to the trending challenge, Tide’s parent company Procter & Gamble issued a statement:
“Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes and they’re used safely in millions of households every day. They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up, closed and away from children. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke.”
The company also offered safety instructions for anyone who has been exposed to or has ingested the pods:
“Unintended exposure to or skin contact with laundry products usually causes no serious medical effects.
If exposure to the skin or clothing occurs, remove contaminated clothing and rinse skin well with water.
If a product gets in the eye(s), then rinse immediately with plenty of water for 15 minutes and seek medical advice as needed.
If a product is swallowed, drink a glass of water or milk and contact the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or doctor immediately. Do not induce vomiting.
Following these laundry safety steps will help keep your home as safe as possible. Know what to do before unintended exposure happens. Read the product safety information provided on the package.”