Lawmakers propose their own “Tide Pod Challenge”

There’s a new “Tide Pod challenge” before the state Legislature – pass a bill to end the dangerous fad before the end of session.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Sen. Brad Hoylman have drafted a bill (S.100-a/A.4646-a) that would require child-resistant packaging, warning labels on containers, individual wrapping and uniform coloring of liquid detergent pods sold in New York.

Simotas, D-Queens, and Hoylman, D-Manhattan, joined a coalition of consumer groups in Albany this week to unveil the legislation and also sent a letter sent to Procter & Gamble on February 5 calling on the company to overhaul its colorful liquid detergent “Tide PODs.”

“This truly is the Tide Pod challenge. It’s a challenge for the legislators to regulate,” Hoylman said.

Citing more than 10,000 incidents involving young children in 2017, the bill sponsors say Proctor & Gamble’s efforts to date – including the addition of a bittering agent, childproof containers, and some warning labels – have fallen short.

The law sets guidelines for detergent pods to have an “opaque, uniform” color rather than the vibrant colors that the lawmakers compared to gummy bears.

The “Tide Pod Challenge” is a fad that has become a morbid joke on the Internet. The trend involves teenagers filming themselves eating the laundry detergent pod as a “challenge” in an attempt to have their videos go viral.

Legislative Gazette photo by David Tregaskis
Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas want soap and detergent manufacturers to take steps to reduce the number of poisonings caused by the ingestion of individual detergent pods.

There have also been numerous cases of young children and adults with dementia eating them under the impression that the colorful pods are candy. This longer-term problem, moreso than than the Tide Pod challenge fad, is what inspired the new legislation.

In a letter to Proctor & Gamble CEO David Taylor, Hoylman and Simotas write “it’s time that you recognized the danger to those least able to protect themselves from a poisonous product packaged like candy.”

The letter asks Procter & Gamble to remove its products from stores or implement voluntary changes along the lines of their bill including: child-resistant wrappers for liquid detergent packets; clear warning labels on packets; and uniform colors to make packets less visually appealing.

Simotas revealed that she herself has stopped her own young daughter from eating a detergent pod in the past.

“Toxic substances like these laundry pods should not be packaged to look like candy or toys which lure children to put them in their mouths,” Simotas said. “Even though the industry has adopted voluntary standards, they are not working and it’s now clear why we need a law to lessen the risk of poisonings. As a legislator and a mother, I am angry that convenience and marketing have been exalted over the safety of children and people with dementia.”

From 2012 to 2015, according to Consumer Reports, there have been more than 34,000 incidents of tide pod exposure nationwide, including at least two deaths. There were about 10,570 incidents in 2017 alone. There have been at least six deaths since 2012 attributed to adults with dementia eating the soap packets.

For teens, the American Association of Poison Control Centers deemed their incidents to be “intentional exposure.”

In New York City 15 calls to poison control centers due to eating laundry detergent pods were reported in 2017. Within the first 15 days of 2018, there have already been five.

Nationally there was 39 cases in 2016, 53 in 2017 and 86 in the first three weeks of this year.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating detergent pods causes vomiting, mental status changes and respiratory distress. The CDC has been releasing studies on detergent pods since the popular Tide Pods launched in 2012.

Soap pods such as Tide PODs are used for clothes washing and dishwashers and are single-load capsules that contain concentrated liquid detergent within a water-soluble membrane that dissolves when in contact with moisture.

Simotas and Hoylman point out that these pods are so concentrated that they may be toxic and dangerous.

Legislative Gazette photo by David Tregaskis
An example of some common soap and detergent pods. Their bright colors make them appealing to young children and people with dementia.

Bobbi Wilding, deputy director of Clean Healthy New York, spoke in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Earth Week 2017 regulations that are requiring manufacturers to disclose all chemicals in a cleaning product.

Tide has acknowledged the current trend eating the pods and has released videos of New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski saying “no” repeatedly and ending the video saying “do not eat.”

According to the legislators, there has been no response from Procter & Gamble.

The bills are currently in the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee in the Assembly and the Consumer Protection Committee in the Senate.

“The tide is turning and the companies need to clean up their manufacturing habits,” Hoylman said.