New Safety Standards Approved for Controversial Laundry Pods

The guidelines from ASTM International respond to an increasing number of cases of accidental ingestion by children.

A leading industry association has signed off on new safety standards for “laundry pods,” detergent containers that have been a source of concern for years among physicians and parents.

The new standards, drafted by ASTM International, are intended to prevent children from mistaking the often colorful detergent containers for something edible or chewable. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, nearly 12,000 children younger than 6 ingested or inhaled the contents of laundry pods in 2014, and figures for 2015 are expected to top that.

ASTM’s new standards, which are voluntary, recommend adding a bitter taste to the pod containers, more explicit labeling about the dangers of ingesting the contents, and options for making the containers harder to open.

The new standards were drafted as a collaboration between ASTM, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and manufacturer groups like the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which applauded the move.

“Manufacturers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and consumer advocates came together over the past year under ASTM to evaluate numerous potential safety measures and ultimately chose a strong set of package and product design interventions supported by science and research,” said Richard Sedlak, executive vice president for technical and international affairs at ACI in a statement when the standards were announced earlier this month.

ACI and related associations had already been promoting better safety standards for the pods. In late 2014 the institute announced a collaboration with the Coin Laundry Association to spread the word about the dangers of the pods in laundromats as well as homes.

Doctors have expressed concern about the pods since their emergence in 2012, and many remain skeptical about the impact of the new standard. Dr. Frederick M. Henretig of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told the New York Times than an effort to make the pods taste bitter, for instance, is misguided. “The game is won in keeping it out of the kid’s mouth,” he said. “Once it goes in, it’s game over.”

CPSC chairman Elliot F. Kaye acknowledged that the jury is still out on whether the standards will be effective if adopted. But he told the Times that “the creation of a standard that has these elements is better than the lack of one, no doubt about that.”

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!