Chemical burns to the eye of infants caused by brightly coloured laundry tablets have increased by 32-fold in just three years, a new study has warned.
Sales of the the capsules have soared since they were introduced in 2012.
But they are becoming an increasing menace to young children aged three to four who mistake them for sweets or toys.
Over a quarter of all chemical burns are caused by these pods as the liquid detergent squirts into their eyes if they burst as they play with them or it gets into their eyes.
Now scientists at at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said parents needed to ensure the capsules are kept out of reach of children and manufacturers needed to do more to make the containers child proof.
Dr Richard Sterling Haring at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said: “The widespread adoption of laundry detergent pods, which are dissolvable pouches containing enough laundry detergent for a single use, has led to an increase in associated injuries among children.
“Reports of pod-related injuries, including poisoning, choking, and burns, have suggested that this pattern may be in part due to the products’ colourful packaging
and candy-like appearance
“In the context of the high incidence of chemical ocular burns among small children, we sought to characterise the burden of and circumstances surrounding chemical ocular burns due to laundry detergent pods.”
The study looked at reported incidents of eye injuries resulting in chemical burn or conjunctivitis among children aged three to four between 2012 and 2015.
They used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) run by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
It found 1,201 laundry detergent pod-related ocular burns occurred among the children.
The number of chemical burns associated with laundry detergent pods increased from 12 instances in 2012 to 480 in 2015.
The proportion of all chemical ocular injuries associated with these devices increased from 0.8 per cent of burns in 2012 to 26 per cent in 2015.
Boys were slightly more at risk than girls.
Dr Haring added: “These injuries most often occurred when children were handling the pods and the contents squirted into one or both of their eyes or when the pod contents leaked onto their hands and a burn resulted from subsequent hand-eye contact.
“Between 2012 and 2015, the proportion of injuries associated with these devices increased 32-fold, and in our study, pod-related injurieswere associated with more than one quarter of chemical ocular burns among children in this age group
“These data suggest that the role of laundry detergent pods in eye injuries among preschool-aged children is growing.
“As with most injuries in this age group, these burns occurred almost exclusively in the home.
“In addition to proper storage and use of these devices, prevention strategies might include redesigning packaging to reduce the attractiveness of these products to young children and improving their strength and durability.”
The study was published by JAMA Ophthalmology.