Don’t leave your young kids unsupervised with your laundry. Not just because they might start mixing with your carefully separated piles of whites and darks, but because they might injure their eyes playing with the brightly coloured liquid detergent capsules.
A letter to the BMJ, ophthalmologists at the Western Eye Hospital in London have highlighted a “wave of paediatric eye injuries” from liquid capsules for fabric detergents. These capsules were responsible for 40% of chemical eye injuries in children under the age of 5 last year at the hospital.
The majority of the 13 children who presented to the hospital with such injuries were girls. In 12 cases the kids were fine after treatment, but one child only had their eyes washed on arrival and sustained permanent burns on both their eyes.
Furthermore, the Poisons Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, also in London, received 192 enquires related to the capsules during 2007-8 and 225 calls during 2006-7, a fifth of which related to ocular exposure.
Liquid detergent capsules, also known as liquitabs, were first introduced in 2001 and are composed of an alkaline solution contained in a water soluble membrane that dissolves when in contact with moist hands or the mouth. Alkali injuries are the most severe form of chemical eye injury and can cause irreversible damage.
The authors advise that concentrated cleaning products like liquitabs should be kept out of the reach of children. If an accident occurs, parents should immediately wash their child’s eyes to reduce the chance that their child will suffer permanent eye damage.