Tammy Noble, a registered nurse and spokeswoman for the Iowa Poison Control Center, says teens and even adults are defying common sense, going on camera and biting into plastic detergent pods. While no deaths are reported in the state, consuming the colorful fluid can cause serious health issues.
“Laundry detergent pods are highly concentrated detergent,” Noble says. “Biting into them can cause diarrhea, some vomiting and sometimes that vomiting can even go on and on, excessive vomiting where we worry about it leading into dehydration.” Even if it’s being done as a joke and the person never intends to swallow the detergent, biting into the pod will likely make it squirt right down their gullet.
“It can cause burns in the mouth, the throat and the stomach,” Noble says. “Or there’s been cases where it accidentally gets into the lungs, where they aspirate it. That can cause significant breathing problems and sometimes that patient needs to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe.”
There are also reports of corneal abrasions — scratches to the eyes — when the detergent gets into the person’s eyes. Last year alone, there were more than 10,500 exposures to liquid laundry detergent packets, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. There are thousands of videos online of people biting these pods, and none of them look like they’re enjoying the experience. What possesses someone to do something so idiotic?
“Maybe someone dared somebody else and posted it online and from there, the copycatting goes on,” Noble says. “Sometimes teens don’t always think and sometimes they do know better and they still do it.” The Sioux-City-based Iowa Poison Control Center is averaging about one call per day about the pods. The hotline is available ’round the clock at 1-800-222-1222.