Dangerous internet trend raises concern from local health experts

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A recent trend on the internet has local health officials concerned for the safety of area teenagers.

“I was actually quite shocked,” says Lori Van Damme, a registered nurse at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.

The “Tide Pod Challenge” is becoming a viral video trend, in which teens are taking bright colorful compact laundry pods to internet video sharing sites like YouTube, and Facebook and eating them.

“I think it’s stupid!” laughs Ruth Bach of Eau Claire.

“To me it would be stupid, like my mom said,” adds Ruth’s daughter, Carissa. “Why would you want to… to me they smell! Okay they smell pretty,” she adds. “But I wouldn't want to put one in my mouth.”

Van Damme says the health effects from the challenge are extremely concerning.

“They’re highly concentrated,” she says. “The Center for Disease Control says they can cause extreme danger, illness, and death.”

The CDC says among children under the age of 5, a proportion of those exposed to laundry detergent from pods had gastrointestinal and respiratory adverse health effects and mental status changes.

The CDC advises parents and caregivers to keep laundry detergent pods out of reach and out of sight of children…but when it comes to teens and this viral video challenge, it’s a bit of a different story.

“The scary part is when you’re a parent and you don’t know what your kids are doing out there on social media,” says Van Damme. “Or you don’t know that sometimes the household products really look innocuous, but they’re not.”

A representative from The American Association of Poison Control Centers told WEAU 13 News that there have approximately 40 cases so far this year, and around half were intentionally ingested.

The AAPCC says they’ve seen 20 percent of regular call volume in this issue alone in the first 11 days of 2018.

So, Van Damme's message to parents: lock them up and have a conversation with your teens.

"Keep them locked up whether you have a five year old or younger, or a teenager that's looking at the social media scene,” she says. "It's not like getting a drop of laundry soap on your skin, it's actually ingesting something that's poison and toxic, so we want people to be aware that it's not a small matter.”

The Milwaukee Center for Poison Control says it mostly gets calls of exposure from laundry pods concerning little ones. The EMS Department at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital says to its knowledge there have been no cases of detergent ingestion in the Eau Claire Area.

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Hotline 1-800-222-1222 or text poison to 797979 to save the number to your phone.

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