Billings parents may want to take notice that a common household convenience has been identified as an increasing risk to young children in recent times. Public health officials in Britain and doctors in the United States warn that single-use packets of laundry detergent can be a dangerous product in the hands of toddlers and younger children.

Single-serving packets of laundry detergent come in brightly colored packaging designed to make them attractive to adult consumers, but doctors warn that the color schemes also appeal to young children, who may be drawn to use the packages as teething toys. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 2,200 children in the United States got detergent in their eyes or swallowed detergent from single-use packets during the first half of 2012.

Laundry detergent can quickly cause damage to soft tissues, especially when it comes to highly alkaline detergents. Whereas most incidents of swallowing laundry detergent used to result in nothing more than stomach upset, the more concentrated products on the market today have caused injuries that landed children in intensive care units in need of breathing tubes. In at least one case, a child needed extensive surgery to repair scar tissue.

Some doctors say that manufacturers should redesign the packaging of detergent packets in order to make them less appealing to children or, if manufacturers refuse to act on their own accord, the government should step in and impose a mandate.

The United States government has yet to respond in the face of more than 2,000 potentially dangerous incidents. With evidence mounting as to the dangers inherent in child-attractive packaging, it may be only a matter of time before manufacturers of single-use detergent packets find themselves the targets of product liability lawsuits.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “Laundry Detergent Packs Pose Poisoning Threat to Toddlers,” Jennifer Goodwin, Sept. 6, 2012