What started the year as an absurd meme meant to make fun of the supposedly appetizing look and feel of laundry pods has now become a national health hazard, with teens all over the internet intentionally ingesting detergent for the “Tide Pod Challenge.”
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It may go without saying, but: Do not eat Tide Pods. Don’t do it.
That’s what the American Association of Poison Control Centers has urged in a recent statement, which reports that in the first 15 days of 2018, poison centers handled 39 cases of intentional exposures — the same amount they dealt with during the entire year of 2016.
In videos posted to YouTube and social media, people are seen gagging, coughing and sometimes foaming at the mouth after biting into laundry pods, CNN reports. This is all due to growing popularity of the Tide Pod meme, which SELF traces back to 2013, leaving officials baffled and concerned.
But there’s no longer any reason to hope you’ll go viral for buying into this dangerous trend, because YouTube is cracking down on challenge videos. “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm,” it says in a statement to Fast Company. “We work quickly to remove flagged videos that violate our policies."
Poison control centers have received more than 50,000 calls regarding liquid laundry pod exposure over the past five years. The vast majority of those were accidents involving children under the age of 5. However, teenagers have been responsible for 130 intentional exposures since 2016.
While it’s possible to imagine that someone might make the mistake of thinking that Tide Pods are harmless, these packets are actually especially dangerous because they’re far more concentrated than regular liquid detergent. And according to Consumer Reports, the pods contain ethanol and hydrogen peroxide, which can burn through the lining of your mouth and stomach.
Unfortunately, that’s not even the worst of it: Other potential effects of eating laundry pods include seizures, fluid in the lungs, respiratory arrest, coma and even death, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
Even if you’re just playing around with a Tide Pod, stop right this instant, because the clear film encompassing the detergent can dissolve easily in water or saliva. Know that you’ve been warned multiple times because (duh) Tide’s packaging states that the pods can be harmful if put in the mouth or eyes.
A spokesperson from Proctor & Gamble, Tide’s parent company, says in a statement given to Time that, “We are deeply concerned about conversations related to intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs and have been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies. Laundry pacs are made to clean clothes. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance, even if meant as a joke. Like all household cleaning products, they must be used properly and stored safely.”
And in what seems like an effort to reach young adults, Tide took to Twitter with a public service announcement.
But why would anyone want to eat a Tide Pod? Your guess is as good as any. Alfred Aleguas, Pharm.D., managing director at Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, tells SELF that it may be because they resemble candy, while one Tumblr user speculates that they look like nutrient-dense fruit.
Whatever it may be, critics are urging companies to rethink their branding and packaging.
“What they need to do now is, first of all, take these things off the shelves and … put them back in a way that does not look edible, appetizing, exciting or anything else,” branding expert Bruce Turkel, CEO of Turkel Brands, tells CNN.
We’ll go on the record one last time to say: Don’t eat Tide Pods.
If you or someone you know ingests a laundry pod or any potentially toxic substance, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers help hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
What Do YOU Think?
What are your thoughts on the Tide Pod meme circulating on the internet? Do you know anyone who’s attempted to eat a laundry pod? Share your stories in the comments section.