The student newspaper at North Point High School in Waldorf, Maryland, tipped us off to the “Tide Pod Challenge,” which made a believer out of me that this was actually a thing.
I first heard the term in conjunction with news stories promulgated by social media, so I was understandably skeptical. It just seemed hard to believe people were swallowing tiny packets of laundry detergent.
Then the makers of Tide, Proctor & Gamble, were convinced enough to shoot a video ad featuring New England Patriots running back Rob Gronkowski. He looks into the camera, with a totally straight face, and says, “Use Tide pods for washing, not eating.”
Still, you know, how could I be sure Tide didn’t fall for some fake story on Facebook?
But then, The Eagle Eye pretty much confirmed it: “Teens across social media have been making jokes about eating the pods, and it soon gained popularity as people began to literally eat the laundry detergent,” writes Melanie Battle, the student newspaper’s editor in chief. “Videos of teenagers ingesting Tide pods everywhere are being uploaded.”
So now that we’ve determined this is a thing, I want to advise readers that the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued the following High Alert:
HIGH ALERT: Intentional Exposures Among Teens to Single-Load Laundry Packets Continue to Rise
Alexandria, VA — The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) expresses continued concern over the improper use of single-load laundry detergent packets as the number of intentional exposures among teenagers rises.
Last week, AAPCC reported that during the first two weeks of 2018, the country’s poison control centers handled thirty-nine intentional exposures cases among 13- to 19-year-olds. That number has increased to 86 such intentional cases among the same age demographic during the first three weeks of 2018.
“Since our first alert to this life-threatening activity, the trend of intentionally ingesting single-load laundry packets has increased in its popularity despite repeated warnings,” said Stephen Kaminski, JD, AAPCC’s CEO and executive director. “During the first two weeks of 2018, poison control centers handled 39 cases of teens intentionally exposed to a liquid laundry packet. In just the past week, we’ve seen another 47 cases, for a total of 86 between January 1 and January 21, 2018. We cannot stress enough how dangerous this is to the health of individuals—it can lead to seizure, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.”
If you or a loved one misuses a laundry packet or has a question about the risk of exposure to one, immediately contact the national Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text Poison to 797979 to save the number in your phone. Experts are available 24/7 and free of charge.
Both Facebook and YouTube say that since they’re responsible for providing most of the bandwidth that has spread the Tide Pod Challenge, they’ll take what measures they can to guard against the videos. They have reportedly begun the process of taking them down, but the artificial intelligence they use to detect them is not without its flaws.