Teenagers are deliberately eating packets of toxic laundry detergent as part of a dangerous new trend called the “Tide Pod Challenge.”
The silly new fad, however, echoes a very serious problem that has already caused the deaths of two infants and 6 adults over the last few years: the accidental consumption of these pods due to their candy-like appearance.
They’ve grown in popularity in recent years due to their simple design and convenience, but the packaging and colors have made them particularly hazardous to both children and, in the case of adults, those suffering from cognitive conditions such as dementia.
This, however, hasn’t stopped able-minded teenagers from deliberately ingesting them for fun.
“A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how – why would I be willing to do that,” said Marc Pagan, a 19-year-old who scarfed one of the packets as a dare, “No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?”
Health officials have condemned the trend for obvious reasons.
“This is what started out as a joke on the internet and now it’s just gone too far,” said Ann Marie Buerkle, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The pods come in small plastic packages, often with rounded shapes and multiple colors—appearing not unlike small candies.
Instinctually, young children are drawn to them and even elderly people suffering from deteriorated cognition have eaten them.
Of the total number of adults killed after consuming them, 5 were in the US and 1 was in Canada.
“Making that laundry packet opaque, less attractive, less colorful, reducing the toxicity and the strength of laundry detergent [could help prevent further incidents],” said Buerkle.
Indeed, the American Cleaning Institute stated in an email to NBC News:
“Manufacturers of liquid laundry detergent packets are fully committed to reducing accidental access to these products, which are used safely by millions of consumers every day.”
Procter & Gamble stated that they are “deeply saddened by the loss of life among people living with dementia” and that they have been “formally collaborating” with the Alzheimer’s Association for some time now to help prevent further incidents.
Despite the apparent concern, though, some consumer advocates are not content.
“Family members caring for anyone who is cognitively impaired [should] not keep pods in the home,” says James Dickerson, Ph.D working for Consumer Reports, “We also continue to believe that manufacturers should modify the appearance of laundry packets, so they do not look like candy.”