Doctors concerned about online laundry detergent pod "memes"

PHOENIX - What began as a social media joke, is prompting concern from doctors about teens consuming laundry detergent pods. 

Banner Health toxicologist Dr. Frank LoVecchio says the online memes have evolved into “challenges” to bite or consume the detergent pacs. Doctors in the Phoenix area have seen recent cases of teens intentionally consuming the pods, he said. 

The chemical pacs can burn the mouth, lips and esophagus if ingested; but beyond the liquid, there is another concern. 

“The membrane around it, when it dissolves, can cause central nervous system depression,” said LoVecchio, causing people to become sleepy or fatigued. 

Online “memes” feature photos depicting the laundry pods as a pizza topping or breakfast cereal. Videos posted on Twitter appear to show people biting into the detergent pacs and spitting them out. 

A spokesperson for Procter and Gamble, maker of Tide, say the company implemented child-resistant packaging for its pods and is working with partners to educate parents on properly storing the containers. 

Asked about the social media jokes and memes, the company said,

“We have seen no indication of an increase of cases seeking medical treatment amongst infants and teenagers associated with the recent uptick in social media conversation or in consumer calls.”

“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.” 

In 2017, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center and Banner Poison and Drug Information Center said there were 239 reported laundry pod exposures across the state. 


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