Do NOT Take the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’ Experts Warn
Tide Pods have become an overnight Internet sensation. The joke expressed in the countless Tide memes is that brightly colored laundry detergent pods look much like fruity candy. They look so tasty and edible, in fact, that people should eat them. Or, not. Ingesting the detergent is downright dangerous, experts warn.
“You’re really taking a chance — and to what end?” Alfred Aleguas of the Florida Poison Information Center said. “It’s pretty foolish behavior.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission further warned “a meme should not become a family tragedy,” tweeting to its 42,000 followers: “Please don’t eat laundry pods.”
Tide itself partnered with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to issue a Public Service Announcement in an effort to warn consumers of the dangers of ingestion after The Tide Pod Challenge swept social media, inspiring numerous memes and tweets about eating the capsules and encouraging teenagers to post videos of themselves doing so. Thirty-nine reports of teenagers taking “the challenge” came in during the first fifteen days of 2018, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).
A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, Tide’s parent company, said in a statement mean to warn against participating, “We are deeply concerned about conversations related to the intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs, and have been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies. Laundry pacs are made to clean clothes. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance, even if meant as a joke. Like all household cleaning products, they must be used properly and stored safely.”
While distributing, the problem of teenaged ingestion of poisonous laundry pacs may not be as common as it’s been made out to be online. In 2017, there were 12,299 calls to U.S. poison control centers due to exposure to laundry pods, according to data collected from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). That number is actually down by 14 percent since 2015, when there were over 14,000 calls. For comparison, there were over 20,000 calls related to hand sanitizers, 17,000 for toothpaste exposure, 16,000 for deodorants, and 13,000 for mouthwash in the same year, and the majority of all poisoning calls are due to ingestion by kids ages five and under, not teenagers or adults who are getting their kicks by ingesting harmful household products.
Suspected poison ingestion by toddlers is also logged. So, even if there’s a possibility of a child eating something they shouldn’t have and a parent places a frantic call, this gets logged, and not all calls to the AAPCC are cases of confirmed ingestion. In total, of all laundry pod calls placed in 2016, only about 5,000 resulted in medical treatment in a licensed facility. This means, all others were properly handled at home.
Of course, the number of pod-related calls, regardless of the age group consuming them, could be reduced to zero if adults with children in the home took basic safety precautions to keep the products from a child’s reach, and teenagers chose to be less, um – well, let’s say, spend their time more productively.