As we’ve recently reported, adolescents have been consuming laundry detergent recently. To be more specific, they’re consuming Tide detergent pods. Why? Well, other people on social media are daring them to do so via videos on social media and video sharing sites. They’re being challenged to do so, and so they do; then more videos of the ridiculous trend are posted, and a result more young people take “the challenge”. It goes on and on like that, and the “challenge” does not show any signs of going away.
To be clear: Tide detergent pods are meant for washing clothing, not as a snack—even if certain people do think they look like tasty sweets with a fruity filling. It has gotten so bad that the company Tide itself as well as the Product Consumer Safety Commission of the United States of America have both put out statements telling people not to stick those darn things in their mouth.
People aren’t just sticking the pods in their mouth, by the way; they’re also cooking them, using as them as toppings for food, and literally ingesting them. The weirdest thing—possibly—being done is vaporizing the liquids contained in the detergent pods. Surprisingly, the person we know of who vaped the liquid isn’t dead; that said, vaporizing it is clearly a very bad idea. We shouldn’t need to hammer home that point, but apparently we might need to do so.
Before we reiterate why people are engaging in the stupid challenge and talk statistics, let’s go over in detail what actually happens when you consume the laundry detergent liquid inside the Tide pods that a certain segment of the population find so very irresistible.
First things first, though, we should point out that people don’t actually seem to be enjoying the consumption of laundry detergent. If anybody was getting high off of the experience, or if the detergent pods actually tasted good, the decision to put the pods in one’s mouth would make sense in a sick and disturbing sort of way. However, they just seem to induce a lot of gagging. If only it stopped at gagging, though!
A reminder: the product was never intended for consumption (by humans—or anything other than washing machines), so those pods contain a pretty nasty mixture of chemicals. If you think smoking cigarettes is dumb, eating laundry detergent makes smokers look like Rhodes Scholars.
A doctor at the world famous Mayo Clinic, who is an expert in pediatric emergency medicine, was nice enough to summarize what happens when people stick the detergent pods in their mouths and swallow.
As we’ve pointed out, gagging and spewing is a risk. The pods don’t taste good. Part of the reason they don’t taste good, by the way, is because Tide found itself in the position where it had to add a bitter flavor to the coating of the detergent capsules. They apparently did so in 2015 as part of an effort to stop small children from snacking on the tasty-looking things; the company probably didn’t anticipate the ‘Tide Pod’ challenge at the time, figuring that anyone over the age of about 7 would know better than to eat the things.
So, what else can happen? The membranes of the interior of one’s mouth can be irritated, which sounds terrible. I hate it when I bite the inside of my cheek while trying to chew food, though, so maybe I’m just a wuss.
So if you spit out the detergent, the consequences are relatively minor. However, if you swallow the detergent inside the pod? That’s when things get very serious—and possibly deadly. The esophagus—which is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach—can be burned. Also, because you’ve swallowed literal poison, you might experience what the doctor called “gastrointestinal distress”, which means you’ll be puking and suffering from diarrhea. If the detergent inside the Tide pod is inadvertently inhaled (or intentionally inhaled, if you’re stupid enough to vape it), the result might be difficulties with breathing; you might even end up on a ventilator.
The doctor reminds us that consuming the detergent can be fatal, especially if it is consumed by a small child. Consuming too much, even as an adult, can also lead to an early death. We would argue that any amount is way, way too much.
Seizures as well as pulmonary edema are also possible side effects of consuming the detergent pods. You might also end up in a coma!
Poison control centers in the United States report that almost 40 people were treated for intentionally eating detergent in the first few weeks of 2018. Compare that to 2017—there were only 53 cases in the entire year. There were only 39 cases in 2016.
Clearly, the challenge isn’t going anywhere, and the consumption of the pods is only becoming more popular!
Previously, most of the calls to poison control centers involved small children or adults with dementia consuming the pods. Now, most of the cases are teenagers and young adults.
Again, this challenge is largely the result of dares and challenges on social media. Young people are trying to impress one another. Couldn’t they just try to impress one another by winning sports trophies or getting high marks in school?