For most parents, childproofing their home is an arduous task and one they take very seriously. But even in homes that are childproofed, accidents still happen. Many parents don't often understand the dangers of the most common household products like detergents and therefore they don't always store it out of a child's reach. The reality is that ingesting dishwasher or washing machine detergent can be very harmful to anyone, so it's important to keep it safely out of the reach of curious hands.
Accidents involving dishwasher detergent poisoning or exposure is more common than you may think. In 2016 poison control centers in the United States dealt with more than 18,000 instances of exposure to automatic dishwashing detergents or ADDs as they're known. Poison.org notes the majority of these case were the results of curious toddlers who came across the detergent.
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Unfortunately, as the website points out, it's the ingredients in ADDs that make is so effective when cleaning your dishes that also make it so harmful if it's ingested, inhaled or if it comes into contact with skin or eyes. Dishwashing detergent contains ingredients that protect that metal in your dishwasher, or that are strong enough to break down food particles. If these products are consumed or even come into contact with your skin they can do everything from simply irritating the skin to causing chemical burns.
Many of the toxic chemicals contained in dishwashing detergent are toxic despite being present in only low concentrations, Hunker reports. They point out that sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate are two of the most common ingredients in dishwashing detergent, and ingesting these can cause severe damage such as chemical burns and severe pain in the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat. They add that the same damage can also occur in the esophagus and abdomen in the event of the detergent being ingested.
Poison.org notes that the liquid dishwashing detergent tends to be more harmful than the powder or tablet form because the pH tends to be higher, but adds that powder detergent can cause injuries other than chemical, especially to eyes if they get on a child's hands and they are then rubbed into the eye. But the real danger comes from how long a person is exposed to the corrosive product.
If your child ingests dishwashing detergent both Hunker and Poison.org state that you should never induce vomiting! Instead, give the person water to drink and rinse out the mouth as often as possible. Drinking the water will help dilute the detergent in the stomach, hopefully reducing the irritation. You should then contact your local poison control center for further guidance.
If you're not sure if your child has swallowed dishwashing detergent, CHOICE notes that you should look for red lips, blisters, possible breathlessness, and coughing, and swelling inside the mouth and severe pain.
While most parents think they're childproofing their house, they often forget about potentially toxic products they use every day like dishwashing detergent. Many people store their dishwashing detergent under the sink, but unless your cupboards are childproofed you may want to store your detergent out of reach of any children in the house. Hunker also notes that many children actually ingest the dishwasher detergent that is in your dishwasher, before or after the cycle has begun, so it's imperative to always watch your children if your dishwasher is open.
To prevent any accidents from happening, always make sure your dishwasher detergent is closed properly to avoid allowing easy access to your child. Ensure that anyone visiting your home who may be using the dishwasher follows the same rules and place the detergent out of reach after use. If your child ingests dishwashing detergent follow the steps above and call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or checking their online tool at webPOISONCONTROL ®.