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Laundry capsule dangers must be taken seriously

Laundry capsules can be dangerous to small children

Posted on 01 April 2021

Laundry capsules are once again in the news following reports earlier this month of a toddler suffering burns to his chest and face after one exploded over him when he squeezed it, thinking it was a toy.

Liquitabs or laundry pods can be particularly attractive to little ones due to their colourful and squishy appearance. However, they contain chemicals that can cause burn injuries if they come into contact with skin.

Some children are tempted to bite into the capsules, presumably mistaking them for sweets. If this happens, the tablets can cause poisoning, burns and breathing problems and parents or carers must get medical assistance straight away. Unfortunately, if a child’s airway becomes compromised then potentially this could lead to fatal consequences.

Leigh Day successfully settled a claim against a laundry products manufacturer on behalf of a 5-year-old girl who suffered chemical burns after she played with a liquitab. She suffered injuries to her eye, face and chest. Whilst liability was denied by the manufacturer throughout the case, it was alleged that the product was defective under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 because its safety was not such as persons generally are entitled to expect. Arguments were advanced about the adequacy of the safety clip on the box containing the liquitabs and also regarding the sufficiency of warnings to consumers on the product packaging.

In many households, these cleaning products are stored under the sink or next to the washing machine where they are easily accessible. However, many capsule boxes and packets are not child-resistant, and even child-resistant packaging is not risk free. Accident prevention charity, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), advises keeping cleaning products out of children’s reach by storing them up high and keeping the packets closed. The Child Accident Prevention Trust also provides poisoning prevention safety advice.

Jill Paterson, product safety solicitor at Leigh Day, said:

“Laundry capsules have become a household staple across the country as they are easy to use and cause little mess – however the dangers of these products must be taken seriously. We have seen from our own clients and other reports in the media how easy it is for the liquitabs to burst open if a child manages to get hold of them and how their bright colours make them so attractive to young children who mistake them for toys or sweets. Safety clips on packaging are not a failsafe and we echo the advice of RoSPA to keep them out of reach of children at all times.”

We have seen from our own clients how easy it is for the liquitabs to burst open if a child manages to get hold of them.

Jill Paterson, product safety solicitor at Leigh Day