Health experts warn about ‘Tide Pod challenge’
DARIEN — They’re round, they’re shiny and they’re colorful — but they’re not to eat.
Despite the internet dubbing Tide Pods laundry detergent packets “the forbidden fruit,” local experts are warning people not to eat this product.
“It is a silly topic, but it’s not a silly issue and it’s dangerous,” said David Knauf, Darien’s health director.
Not eating laundry detergent should seem like a given, however, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported at least eight people have died since 2012 from eating Tide pods, including six adults with dementia.
“They look pretty delicious, so both the elderly population with dementia and young children mistake them for something good to eat,” said Dr. Heather Machen, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Stamford Hospital.
Machen said Tide is trying to fight against teenagers eating their products by adding a bitter taste to the pods, as well as selling a Child-Guard Pack to prevent children from getting into the containers. Tide’s official website features a guide on how to keep children and the elderly safe from laundry products and encourages keeping cleaning products in a locked closet.
In January, Tide released a YouTube video featuring New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, reminding viewers Tide Pods are only for doing laundry and should not be eaten, even as a joke.
The “Tide Pod challenge” allegedly encourages teens to eat the laundry pods. It’s the latest of ingestion-related challenges and teens punishing their bodies for the sake of internet amusement, joining the ranks of the “gallon challenge” (where teens attempt to chug a gallon of milk).
“I think even long before the internet, kids were doing these things,” Machen said. “They’ve always dared each other to do these things. I think with the internet, people can show lots of people what you’re doing. It’s not just your friends. You can demonstrate to a lot more people. ... Unfortunately, the adolescent population tends to think they’re invincible and nothing is going to happen to them. They don’t think it’ll cause them severe harm.”
While no teens have entered Stamford Hospital because they have ingested Tide Pods, Machen said eating one can cause anything from gastrointestinal upset, severe burns due to the substance’s caustic nature, respiratory issues and seizures. Some of these side effects, Machen said, can be lifelong.
Knauf said he hasn’t heard any heard of anyone in town eating the laundry pods, but still warned against it.
“The way I saw it on TV was it’s done because it was going on Facebook and Snapchat and something like that, where people were doing it ’cause it’s cool,” Darien’s health director said. “This is just another manifestation of people acting crazy and thinking it’s fun.”
Post 53, the town’s emergency medical services, also confirmed they haven’t received any calls.
“Tide detergent is not meant to be ingested,” Knauf said. “Nobody should be eating detergent. It truly is dangerous, and it screams out there’s issues here with people who are choosing to think that this is fun. On one hand, it’s amusing, and on the other, it’s not. It really doesn’t make sense.”