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Simotas seeks safer packaging for toxic laundry pods

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A Queens lawmaker is leading the fight against a corporate giant for endangering the health and welfare of children as well as seniors suffering from dementia.

State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) was joined by state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manahattan) and consumer groups Tuesday in Albany where they called on Proctor & Gamble to overhaul its colorful liquid detergent Tide pods, citing more than 10,000 poisoning incidents involving young children in 2017.

Simotas and Hoylman urged the passage of their bill that would ban the sale of detergent pods in New York State unless the pods are designed in an opaque, uniform color packaged with a warning of the dangers of ingesting the product.

“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.”

Children who bite the pods thinking they are toys or candy end up ingesting or inhaling extremely concentrated detergent. This causes vomiting, chemical burns, respiratory distress, seizures, loss of consciousness, fluid in the lungs and even death, Simotas said. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 154 calls to poison control centers reporting teenagers ingesting pods this year, up from 53 cases last year.

The problem has been compounded in recent months with the online Tide Pods challenge in which young people eat the pods while daring others to do the same.

“It’s no joke or passing fad that poison control centers get thousands of calls,” New York Public Interest Research Group General Counsel Russ Haven said. “Children and adults with cognitive impairments are at risk of death and serious injury from these items that are attractive to kids and can look like food. The tide is turning and manufacturers need to clean up their marketing practices.”

Hoylman, a father of two young children, is concerned for their safety.

“It makes no sense to me that with nearly 30 incidents a day, manufacturers still haven’t made these products safe,” he said. “It’s way past time to fix these products or remove them altogether from store shelves.”

Proctor & Gamble was dismissive of the legislators efforts.

“There is nothing new in these legislative proposals,” P&G Spokeswoman Petra Renck said. “We have made our packaging child resistant. We have a number of partners to help us spread the word to ensure laundry pacs are used safely and stored properly. Consumers have a choice: those who prefer single colored pac can use Tide Free and Gentle, which is all-white. Tide is also available in a liquid and powder product form.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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