ACCC warns consumers about liquid laundry detergent capsule injuries

6 February 2013

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is encouraging changes to laundry detergent pod packaging after putting the industry on notice that liquid laundry detergent capsules are injuring Australian children.

Laundry capsules contain pre-measured, concentrated liquid detergent within water-soluble packaging. They can rapidly dissolve when in contact with moisture and exposure to the chemical content can occur in less than ten seconds.

"Children who have either ingested these laundry capsules or have been exposed to them have experienced symptoms such as severe skin irritations, coughing, drowsiness, vomiting and even temporary blindness,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Poison call centres across Australia have received over 85 calls in the last 18 months relating to exposure to laundry capsules. The experience in Australia is consistent with an international trend, where most cases have involved a child aged five years or younger.

“Laundry capsules often come in transparent plastic packaging shaped similar to lunchboxes and children appear to be highly attracted to these products as they can be mistaken for toys or confectionery. The capsules are small enough to fit in a child’s hand or be taken into their mouth and can easily burst,” Ms Rickard said.

“The ACCC has been working closely with Accord Australasia, the relevant industry association, to improve the safety and packaging of these products. Expected changes include the redesign of the product and outer packaging so it features consistent safety information and prominent warning labels. With the assistance of Accord, industry has acknowledged the ACCC’s concerns and has signalled that changes will be made.” 

Ms Rickard also said that parents and carers have a shared responsibility to keep household cleaning products well away from children:

  • Keep laundry capsules out of sight and reach of children, preferably in cupboards or storage compartments that they can’t reach, or are lockable. 
  • Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 if you believe your child has symptoms of having been exposed to household chemicals such as laundry capsules.
  • If laundry detergent or capsules are swallowed by your child, rinse as much of the detergent as possible from their mouth and seek immediate medical advice. If the product comes into contact with your child’s eyes, immediately flush their eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical advice. For medical advice, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.
  • Ensure your hands are dry before using a laundry capsule and wash and dry your hands thoroughly after use.

For more information about product safety visit www.productsafety.gov.au, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ACCCProdSafety or call the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502. You can also find product safety information via the ACCC's Product Safety Facebook Page and YouTube channel, ACCC Product Safety.

Release number: 
NR 015/13
ACCC Infocentre: 

Use this form to make a general enquiry.