Laundry pods have featured in the news this week after cases of people eating them in what’s being referred to as the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’. In case you didn’t already realise that this is a pretty terrible idea, this graphic looks at the chemical reasons why you really don’t want them anywhere near your mouth
|The Chemistry of Laundry pods
Eating laundry pods is particularly risky since the detergents are at a higher concentration than in liquid detergents. They are highly alkaline; just as highly acidic substances can cause burns, so too can very alkaline ones. If you eat a laundry pod, you run the risk of burns to your throat and stomach from the high concentration detergent they contain. As they pop in your mouth, they can also be accidentally inhaled – definitely not good for your airway and lungs either.
In addition, eating them can also cause breathing problems. Why exactly this is is currently unclear. It seems that in some laundry pod formulations, a sedative effect is seen when they are ingested. This can lead to drowsiness and breathing difficulties. It’s been speculated that a solvent used in the pods, propylene glycol, might contribute. Alternatively, it might be an unknown effect of certain ethoxylated alcohols.
Laundry pods like this also contain a bitter substance to deter children from putting them in their mouths. For more information visit the full article at the excellent Compound Interest
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