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Baby Dies After Ingesting Laundry Detergent Packet; First Case Of Its Kind In U.S.

By Rebekah Marcarelli | Aug 16, 2013 04:38 PM EDT

The packets are dangerous because they often look like candy, which can tempt toddlers.
The packets are dangerous because they often look like candy, which can tempt toddlers. (SPECIFIC PRODUCT NOT PICTURED). (Photo : Flickr)

A toddler died after ingesting a colorful laundry detergent packet. 

The seven-month-old boy's death is the first of its kind in the U.S., but over 5,000 children have gotten sick from the detergent this year, Sun Sentinel reported.

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The incident took place in a Florida battered women's shelter. The boy's mother left a laundry basket containing two detergent packets on the bed where her son was sleeping. She stepped out of the room for a few minutes.

When she returned the child was chewing on one of the packets, and had most likely already consumed the first one.

The infant, Michael Williams, was coughing when paramedics arrived at the scene. Staff at the shelter had helped the mother remove the plastic packet from Michael's throat before police arrived.

"The death of little Michael is a tragedy," Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Terri Durdaller, told the Sun Sentinel. "It reminds all of us as parents the dangers of leaving household cleaning supplies around our little ones."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement last year that said "children might be attracted to the pods because their colorful appearance and size are similar to candy," according to Sun Sentinel.

Tampa Poison Control Center nurse JoAnn Chambers-Emerson said the dangers of detergent packets were first noticed in Europe.

"It was a big surprise because we thought we knew everything about laundry detergent and how it acts in the body," she said. "The kids not only have vomiting, but it seems to be prolonged vomiting, coughing, difficulty breathing and drowsiness; so much so, that doctors were afraid children would aspirate into their lungs."

The cause of the packets' toxicity has not yet been determined, but some U.K. researchers have said it could be linked to the chemical used to make the packets dissolve quickly in water. This chemical could cause swelling and irritation of the esophagus. 

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