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Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Senator Dick Durbin, and Senator Bill Nelson Hold Press Conference on Bill to Protect Children from Detergent Packet Poisoning

March 19, 2015
Press Release

March 19, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) today held a press conference on introduction of the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act (Detergent PACS Act) during National Poison Prevention Week, featuring a mother whose child ended up in intensive care after biting into a liquid detergent packet, a pediatrician, and a consumer advocate.

Liquid detergent packets are popular, convenient, and dangerous because they deliver powerful chemicals in colorful, bite-sized packages that look like candy. From 2012 to 2013 the National Poison Data System received 17,230 calls involving children exposed to chemicals by the packets. Of those, 769 required hospitalization for issues including seizures, vomiting blood, fluid in the lungs, dangerously slow heartbeats, respiratory arrest, gastric burn, and comas, in addition to the death of a 7-month-old boy.

Many household products such as medicine and cleaning agents already require child-resistant packaging. The PACS Act would expand those CPSC rules to cover liquid detergent packets. It would require stronger, safer policies that cover the design and color of the packets, so that they aren’t as attractive to children; the composition of the packets, so that the consequences of exposure aren’t so severe; and the adequacy of the warning labels, to properly inform consumers about the risk.

“It’s incredibly dangerous to make toxic, concentrated detergent ‘bite-sized’ and ‘colorful,” said Speier. “The science is clear: This product is hazardous to young children. It’s just common sense that liquid detergent packets should be subject to the same safety measures as other dangerous household products, like medicine.”

“Of course parents should do all that they can to keep laundry detergent packets out of the reach of children, but companies can do much more to address the rising number of poisonings head on,” Durbin said. “Making the design and color of packets less appealing to children, making safer, child-resistant packaging, and adding proper warning labels are commonsense protections for consumers similar to those for countless other household products. We can still have convenience without sacrificing safety for children and families.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics commends Congresswoman Speier and Senator Durbin for introducing the Detergent PACS Act, which will help make laundry detergent pods less toxic to young children,” said Dr. Kyran Quinlan, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury Violence and Poison Prevention. “Recent research found that laundry detergent packets have come to pose a serious poisoning risk to young children, with just under 1,000 children poisoned by these products each month. Children younger than 3 years old accounted for 73 percent of the cases. Now, most people know that 1- and 2-year olds can walk, climb, are good with their hands, and put everything into their mouths. From the published research, we know that most of time, children ingest these colorful products or otherwise burst them open, and expose their mouths, stomachs, skin, and eyes to the detergent’s powerful chemicals. The Detergent PACS Act is an important step forward to put protections in place that will keep children safe.”

“We strongly support the Detergent PACS Act introduced by Representative Speier and Senator Durbin,” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel at Consumer Federation of America. “This legislation is so necessary because of the large numbers of incidents caused by laundry packets. This bill addresses the accessibility of the packaging of these products, the safety of the packets themselves, and the composition of the detergent, elements that are critical to reducing injury, illness, and death associated with laundry packets.”

“While increasingly popular, liquid detergent packets often lack fundamental safety measures that would protect kids from injury,” said William Wallace, policy analyst at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.  “We applaud Rep. Speier, Sen. Durbin, and all supporting lawmakers for taking action to change that—and help parents keep their young children safe.”

“It’s 2015—America ought to be able to do laundry without harming children,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “And if industry won’t take the appropriate precautions, Congress must act, and act quickly. We urge lawmakers to support Senator Durbin and Congresswoman Speier’s commonsense PACS Act.”

“Kids In Danger applauds the actions of Senator Durbin and Representative Speier in introducing this vital legislation,” stated Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger. “The protections in the bill will both alert parents to the hidden dangers of these tiny objects and keep children from injury.”

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