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What Is the Tide Pod Challenge?

Published in Safety on March 29, 2018

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Every generation experiences strange fads and social trends that sometimes have a detrimental effect on those who participate in them. One of the newest trends making waves on social media and the news is the Tide Pod Challenge, a social challenge where participants attempt to eat Tide Pods, individually wrapped and highly concentrated laundry detergent pods. Even though consuming any type of cleaning product can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, the Tide Pod Challenge persists on social media and has already claimed several lives.

How Did the Challenge Start?

Tide Pods are colorful, shiny, and often compared to candy in appearance. Several prominent YouTube personalities and social media stars have bitten into Tide Pods or consumed them for shock value and humor, but the results of doing so are no laughing matter. Laundry detergent pods a choking risk to younger children who may mistake them for treats, and the recent rash of hospitalizations and deaths associated with willful consumption of these detergent pods is startling.

Public outcry has forced Proctor & Gamble to rethink its product lines and the safety warnings and childproof features that accompany them. Since 2015, manufacturers have taken several measures to reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with their products, including:

  • Thickening the outer layers of the pod to make them more difficult to tear or puncture.
  • Coating the pods in a bitter substance so deter eating.
  • Making pod packaging childproof and/or more difficult to open.

Unfortunately, these measures have proven generally ineffective. The number of detergent pod-related injuries peaked in 2015 with 12,594 incidents. Although this number dropped to 10,570 in 2017, this indicates no real improvement from 2013’s 10,395 detergent pod incidents.

Dangers of Eating Detergent Pods

Unfortunately, many American youths do not realize that detergent pods can cause catastrophic injuries when consumed. Laundry detergent contains several corrosive and toxic substances unfit for human consumption. Medical responders have witnesses severe burning in the mouth, esophagus and stomach, damage to lung tissues, digestive issues, and even death from consumption of detergent pods.

Although this phenomenon may seem ludicrous to sensible adults, the reality is that shock value, particularly on social media, generates attention and notoriety for young people who want to make waves on the internet. Teens trying to impress their friends with funny stunts have suffered serious internal injuries and death. It’s crucial for parents to explain to their kids how dangerous these detergent pods are and discourage them from participating in social media discussions or displays concerning the Tide Pod Challenge. Teens engaged in risky or dangerous behavior for attention is nothing new, but this new fad is potentially deadly.

Liability for Manufacturers

Companies including Proctor & Gamble have come under fire for their products’ potential for abuse for years; these companies have strict regulations regarding safety warnings and childproofing features. If a company meets these obligations, it is not liable for laundry pod-related injuries, but it must take adequate measures to ensure its products are not enticing or easily accessible for small children who lack the judgment of teens and adults.

Ultimately, the media attention surrounding the Tide Pod Challenge has done a decent job of raising awareness about this troubling issue. However, the two groups most responsible in these situations are product manufacturers and parents. Manufacturers must ensure that their products function as intended and pose no unnecessary risks to consumers, while parents need to carefully explain the dangers of the Tide Pod Challenge to their kids. It’s also essential to keep these items out of reach of small children who don’t understand the danger inherent in them.

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