Congresswoman Jackie Speier is set to introduce the tougher laws surrounding the packaging of liquid laundry detergent pods after a child ended up in intensive care after biting into such a colorful, and dangerous, packet.
The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act would direct the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission to require safer, child-resistant packaging for liquid detergent packets. She's trying to prevent more children from getting sick, and in some cases, from dying.
Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties) was moved to act after hearing the story of Jill Koziol whose 8-month-old daughter, Cate, spent two days in the pediatric intensive care unit after swallowing a detergent pod her husband was using to do the laundry in September 2014. Koziol had moved from Menlo Park, Calif., to New York City, where her husband was about to do laundry in the apartment building, when the baby crawled into the hamper and took a bite of the packet.
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And in one of the most egregious cases, 7-month-old Michael Williams of Florida died in 2013 after swallowing such a liquid laundry packet. His mother said that she was living at a shelter, where someone had placed the pods inside a laundry basket on the bed where her son was asleep. She stepped away only to return and find that her son had eaten two.
The American Cleaning Institute called the legislation "unnecessary" because "there are already comprehensive activities taking place addressing the safety of detergent packets."
Spokesman Brian Sansoni told NBC Bay Area that these products should be kept out of reach of children "no matter what color they are."
“In addition, ACI and its detergent manufacturer members are actively engaged in a process – administered by the standard-setting group ASTM International – to enhance and standardize laundry packet labeling and packaging," the statement read.
According to industry experts and studies, detergent packets are popular, convenient, and dangerous because they deliver powerful chemicals in colorful, bite-sized packages that look like candy.
From 2012 to 2013 the National Poison Data System received 17,230 calls involving children exposed to chemicals by the packets. Of those, 769 required hospitalization for issues including seizures, vomiting blood, fluid in the lungs, dangerously slow heartbeats, respiratory arrest, gastric burn, and comas. One 7-month-old boy has died.
Many household products such as medicine and cleaning agents already require child-resistant packaging. But Speier’s legislation proposes expanding those rules to cover liquid detergent packets. According to her office, the proposal advocates requiring stronger, safer policies that cover the design and color of the packets, so that they aren’t as attractive to children; the composition of the packets, so that the consequences of exposure aren’t so severe; and the adequacy of the warning labels, to properly inform consumers about the risk.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is releasing companion legislation in the Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.