There’s the folly of youth and then there’s this: teens in the U.S. are eating laundry detergent as part of a “Tide Pod Challenge” and posting the videos to YouTube.
The phenomenon is suspected to date back to 2015 when online satire publication The Onion published an article from the perspective of a toddler determined to eat a red-and-blue detergent pod. It came on the heels of reports that kids were ingesting the packets after mistaking them for candy.
Doctors call the effects of ingesting the detergent “life threatening.”
It’s unclear why teens are engaging in this “challenge” — and some even seem cognizant that it’s not the best move.
“A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how — why would I be willing to do that,” Marc Pagan, 19, said to CBS News. “No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?”
Toxic ingredients in the pods include ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and polymers, and ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, drowsiness and nausea, as well as irritation and conjunctivitis if it gets in the eyes. If any of the detergent manages to get into the lungs, it can also cause respiratory distress.
At least 10 deaths have been linked to eating the pods: two were toddlers and eight were seniors suffering from dementia.
The teen videos hit fever pitch after satire site College Humour created a video of an adult eating detergent pods in March 2017. It ends with the man being loaded onto an ambulance and before the paramedics put an oxygen mask on his face he says, “I don’t regret it.”
It bears noting that not all teens are tempted to ingest the pods; some have jumped on the phenomenon as a vehicle to more creative incarnations, imagining Tide Pods as ingredients in popular dishes, launching clever, albeit unsettling, memes.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who use our products,” P&G, the makers of Tide, said in a statement. “Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes, and they’re used safely in millions of households every day. They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up and away from children. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if it is meant as a joke.”
If you or someone you know has ingested a poisonous substance, call 911 or your provincial poison control centre.