July 29, 2015

(KCAU-TV Sioux City / Rachael Krause) Do you use laundry packets? They're small, brightly colored and look a little like candy.  It may be why little kids frequently take a bite out of those packets.

A new study from two Siouxland specialists looks at why some laundry packets or pods make some people really sick, while others don't do much damage at all.

Kids have been biting in to laundry packets since they came out in 2012. But when some brands seemed to be making kids more sick than others, Dr. Edward Bottei and Dr. Kim Zellmer with the Iowa Poison Control Center started studying the packets.

"We took hundreds of these packets and then just popped them, like you see there," said Dr. Edward Bottei, Medical Director of the Iowa Poison Control Center.

They spent hundreds of hours testing hundreds of laundry packets to find out how thick the detergent was and just how well they'd burst.

"Really just pushing the force meter down through until it pops," Bottei said.

The force meter shows just how hard it is to pop a packet.

"Yes, that came in at only 15, where as the others were popping at the 30's," Bottei said.

He says he and Dr. Zellmer found both the force to break the packets and thickness of detergent inside were related to brands with worse outcomes in testing the packets.

"If it takes less force to burst it open it will be easier to get it in to the mouth, get it in to the lungs," Bottei said.

They say the thickness of the detergent has to be called in to question.

"How thick is the detergent inside the pack? Thinner liquids have a tendency to get in the lungs more easily than thicker liquids do," Bottei said.

Bottei says they're now analyzing the data to find out if the thinner detergents or easier to pop packets are causing more health issues when kids end up eating them.  They say for now, the best thing for parents to do is to keep the pods and packets out of reach and away from kids' mouths.

 Researcher performing a study on various laundry detergent pods.

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