Durbin, Speier Introduce Bill To Address Rising Number Of Poisonings In Children Due To Laundry Detergent Packets

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) today introduced legislation to address the rising number of poisonings in children due to laundry detergent packets.  The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“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 common-sense protections for consumers similar to those for countless other household products.  We can still have convenience without sacrificing safety for children and families.”

“Anyone with common sense can see how dangerous it is to have liquid detergent in colorful, bite-sized packets that children will inevitably swallow,” said Congresswoman Speier. “These packets must be subject to the same robust safety measures and warning labels that we already expect on detergent, medicine, and similar household products.  Toxic, concentrated detergent should not look like candy. It is irresponsible to market a product that is so unsafe to children. These packets must be subject to the same robust safety measures and warning labels that we already expect on detergent, medicine, and similar household products.”


Nationally, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports more than 11,700 children under age the age of 5 were exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent packets in 2014.  A majority of the children experienced adverse reactions, including vomiting, coughing or choking and respiratory distress.


“Today, liquid detergent packets are getting more and more popular, but the protections for safety are completely inadequate, despite the known hazards.  The research shows that these packets are much more likely to cause injury compared to traditional types of detergent,” said Ellen Bloom, Senior Director of Federal Policy at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. “We applaud the lawmakers for taking action to help protect small children from harm.”


“The alarming number of incidents associated with laundry packets--  more than 1,700 reports received by CPSC and over 17,000 reports received by poison centers  across the country, and possibly two deaths, compel a strong and effective solution,” stated Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel at Consumer Federation of America. “We applaud the introduction of this legislation because it will institute a broad solution that will protect children from injury, illness and death associated with laundry packets by addressing the accessibility of the packaging and the packets as well as the composition of the detergent.”


“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) commends Congresswoman Speier and Senator Durbin for introducing the Detergent PACS Act, which will help make laundry detergent pods less toxic to young children. 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,” said Dr. Kyran Quinlan, MD, MPH, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.


“Kids In Danger, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children by improving children’s product safety, commends Senator Durbin and Representative Speier for introducing the Detergent PACS Act which will protect children from the little known hazard of liquid detergent packets,” said Nancy Cowles, Executive director of Kids In Danger.


The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to set mandatory safety standards for easily accessible liquid detergent packets, which expose thousands of children each year to caustic chemicals.  Specifically, the bill would give the CPSC the authority and direction to issue rules requiring safer, child-resistant packaging for liquid detergent packets within eighteen months compelling industry to implement stronger and more effective policies that address:


  • Child-proof packaging for the container holding liquid detergent packets;


  • Design and color of the packets to make them less appealing to children;


  • Composition of packets to make consequences of exposure less severe; and


  • Proper warning labels that adequately inform consumers of the potential risks. 


Earlier this month, Durbin sent a letter to the American Society for Testing and Materials—a nonprofit multi-stakeholder organization charged with developing safety standards—urging them to finalize its voluntary safety standards to reduce the safety hazards associated with liquid detergent packets as soon as possible. Last year, the Illinois Poison Control Center received 449 calls for children exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent packets with an average of 37 per month. This represents a ten percent increase from 2013.