Massachusetts Medical Society: Testimony in Support of An Act to Protect Children from Detergent Poisoning

Testimony in Support of An Act to Protect Children from Detergent Poisoning

The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) wishes to be recorded in support for H.3485, An Act to Protect Children from Detergent Poisoning. This bill would protect children from poisoning by liquid detergent packets by prohibiting the sale of such products unless they meet child resistant packaging requirements and are manufactured to be less attractive to children in color and design.

Specifically, H.3485 would require the Department of Public Health to promulgate regulations to establish safety standards for liquid detergent packets to protect children from injury or illness caused by exposure to detergent. The regulations would address the design and color of liquid detergent packets to make them less attractive to children; reduce the likelihood of exposure to detergent; and reduce risks related to the ingestion, aspiration of, or ocular contact with detergent. Packages of liquid detergent “pods” would be required to have visible warning labels that adequately inform consumers of the potential risks of injury and death caused and identify actions needed to avoid injury. Products that do not meet the standards of the regulations would be prohibited for sale by retail or wholesale establishments in the Commonwealth.

Laundry detergent pods began appearing on U.S. store shelves in early 2012, and people have used them in growing numbers ever since. The small packets can be tossed into a washing machine without ever having to measure out a liquid or powder. The convenience, though, has come with risks for young children.

A 2014 study from researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that from 2012 through 2013, U.S. poison control centers received reports of 17,230 children younger than 6 years of age swallowing, inhaling, or otherwise being exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent pods. That’s nearly one young child every hour. A total of 769 young children were hospitalized during that period, an average of one per day, and mostly from ingestion. One child died.

A leading manufacturer of laundry detergent pods began changing its packaging in the spring of 2013, introducing opaque containers and adding latches and a warning label to the containers. However, laundry detergent pods from many makers continue to be sold in transparent packages that children can easily open.

This bill mirrors federal legislation, the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act, or Detergent PACS Act, that aims to prevent these accidents. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have introduced the legislation to direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue safety standards.

The MMS urges the Committee on Public Health to report H.3485 out of Committee favorably.

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