Children exposed to chemicals used in laundry detergent packets may have serious health effects such as breathing difficulties, heart problems and even death, a new US study has claimed.
Exposure to laundry detergent packets is more dangerous to young children than exposure to other types of laundry and dishwasher detergent, according to researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital and Central Ohio Poison Centre in the US.
The study found that from January 2013 till December 2014, Poison Control Centres in the US received 62,254 calls related to laundry and dishwasher detergent exposures among children younger than six years old.
The study included calls about both traditional detergent and detergent packets and found that detergent packets accounted for 60 per cent of all calls.
Almost half (45 per cent) of the calls for exposure to laundry detergent packets were referred to a health care facility for evaluation and treatment, significantly more than calls related to exposures to traditional laundry detergent (17 per cent), traditional dishwasher detergent (four per cent), or dishwasher detergent packets (five per cent), researchers said.
Incidents related to laundry detergent packets saw the biggest rise – increasing 17 per cent over the two year study period, they said.
Poison control centres received more than 30 calls a day about children who had been exposed to a laundry detergent packet, which is about one call every 45 minutes.
The most serious clinical effects such as coma, trouble breathing, heart problems, and death, were only seen in children exposed to the chemicals in laundry detergent packets, researchers said.
The risks of having a clinical effect, a serious medical outcome, hospitalisation, or intubation were significantly higher for children who had been exposed to the chemicals in a laundry detergent packet than for those exposed to any other type of laundry or dishwasher detergent, they said.
At least one child a day in the US was admitted to the hospital due to a laundry detergent packet exposure, researchers said.
The two child deaths in the study were both associated with exposure to laundry detergent packets, they said.
"Use traditional laundry detergent when you have young kids in your home. It is not worth the risk when there is a safer and effective alternative available," said Marcel J Casavant from Central Ohio Poison Centre.
The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.