“Tide Pod Challenge” Is No Laughing Matter, Warns Poison-Control Group

Young people participating in the latest social media video challenge---in which they eat laundry detergent pods in creative ways---may mean it as a lark, but the American Association of Poison Control Centers says it's risky business. Calls to poison centers are way up.

All it takes is a dumb meme to undermine years of hard work building awareness.

In 2014, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other groups began warning of  the dangers that laundry detergent pods pose to small children. The colorful pods look like toys or candy but are filled with substances that can cause illness.

Their efforts led to changes in packaging for Tide Pods and other similar products. But recently, an online meme, the Tide Pod Challenge, has  encouraged people to eat the pods. The challenge, which is comparable to other online gimmicks like the Cinnamon Challenge, has raised a lot of concerns. Last weekend, Tide released a public service announcement discouraging the practice, featuring New England Patriots superstar Rob Gronkowski:

While many people participating in the meme are clearly joking, not everyone is laughing. AAPCC says poison control centers received 39 calls related to intentional ingestion of laundry pods by teenagers in the first 15 days of 2018—equal to the number of such calls received in all of 2016, and closing in on the 53 calls received in 2017.

“The ‘laundry packet challenge’ is neither funny nor without serious health implications,” Stephen Kaminiski, CEO and executive director of AAPCC, said in a news release. “The intentional misuse of these products poses a real threat to the health of individuals. We have seen a large spike in single-load laundry packet exposures among teenagers since these videos have been uploaded.”

The American Cleaning Institute, which represents the manufacturers of products like Tide Pods, noted that its Packets Up program encourages consumers to keep the pods out of sight of young children.

“It is important to remember that these products are highly concentrated detergent packets,” the association stated. “Their contents can cause serious harm if they are ingested or come into contact with the eyes or skin.”

The outcry over the Tide Pod Challenge has led both YouTube and Facebook to take down such videos from their  websites.

(sdominick/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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