Tide Pods have been one of the biggest memes of 2018 so far. The tide pod challenge, similar to challenges like the cinnamon and ice bucket challenge, have hit all of social media daring millennials to taste the brightly colored laundry detergent pods that supposedly look like candy.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned that “a meme should not become a family tragedy.” But the pods are not exactly a breaking public health emergency. The American Association of Poison Control Centers completed a study that shows detergent pod poisonings are actually trending downward. In 2017, there were 12,299 calls to U.S. poison control centers due to the exposure of laundry pods. Although this may seem like a lot of class, this number is down by about 14 percent since 2015, when there were over 14,000 calls.
While 12,000 still seems like a ridiculous amount, it’s very much within the range of calls for a lot of other common household products. For instance, there were over 20,000 calls related to hand sanitizers and 17,000 for toothpaste exposure in 2016. As for laundry pods, the majority of the calls were due to kids ages 5 and under.
Since the debut of the tide pod challenge, 37 cases have been reported among teenagers. “A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how — why would I be willing to do that?” says 19-year-old Marc Pagan, who said he was dared to do it. “No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?” Children who have been exposed to the pods have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties, and loss of consciousness.
Of the 13,000 plus calls reported in 2016, only about 5,000 resulted in someone requiring medical treatment. Of those 5,000, about 700 resulted in “moderate” or “major” risks to their health. That’s still more sick kids than anyone wants to see, but in a country where you’ve got 20 million kids under the age of five living amongst bright and colorful products, it is to be expected.