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story.lead_photo.caption Snopes.com says the "Tide Challenge" is not a hoax; in the year of our Lord 2018, young people are videotaping themselves trying to eat the plastic bundles of caustic detergent. - Photo by Celia Storey

Tide Pods are the internet's breakout meme of early 2018. The joke is that brightly colored laundry detergent pods look like delicious fruity candy so maybe we should, you know, eat them.

To be clear, we should not eat them.

In what's called "the Tide Pod Challenge," people videotape themselves eating the detergent pods. It seems so dumb just on the face of it that Snopes.com has weighed in to confirm that, no, this is actually true. People have been doing it.

"You're really taking a chance -- and to what end?" Alfred Aleguas of the Florida Poison Information Center said earlier this month. "It's pretty foolish behavior."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned that "a meme should not become a family tragedy."

Tide partnered with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to issue a public service announcement.

YouTube announced Wednesday it would "work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies," company representative Jessica Mason said in a statement. "YouTube's Community Guidelines prohibit content that's intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm."

But Tide Pods are not exactly a breaking public health emergency. In fact, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which compiles up-to-the-minute numbers on poison control calls, shows that detergent pod poisonings are trending downward.

In 2017, there were 12,299 calls to U.S. poison control centers because of exposure to laundry pods, according to the centers' latest data. That number is actually down by about 14 percent since 2015, when there were more than 14,000 calls. The organization didn't start tracking pod poisoning separately until 2012, when Tide Pods first came out.

A couple of things to keep in mind. First, while 12,000 poison control calls sounds like a lot, it's well within the range of calls for a lot of other common household products. In 2016, for instance, there were more than 20,000 calls related to hand sanitizers, 17,000 for toothpaste exposure, 16,000 for deodorants and 13,000 for mouthwash.

As is the case for laundry pods, the overwhelming majority of calls for these products were attributed to kids age 5 and under. As any parent of toddlers knows, if a 3-year-old can grab something and put it in his mouth, he's gonna grab it and put it in his mouth.

Second, not every call represents an actual ingestion of a laundry pod. Parents may call poison control because they suspect that their kid ate something harmful but aren't really sure, for instance. That call still gets logged in the database.

Notably, of the 13,000-plus laundry pod calls in 2016, only about 5,000 resulted in someone requiring treatment in a medical facility. And only about 700 of those resulted in a "moderate" or "major" risk to the individual's health.

That's still more sick kids than anyone wants to see, of course. But this is a country where 20 million kids under the age of 5 live in households full of bright, colorful, nonedible products.

Finally, as noted above, laundry pod exposures are actually trending downward. That could be a sign that as consumers become more familiar with the product, they're getting smarter about keeping it away from their kids.

This year could bring fresh new detergent horrors, of course. But as The Washington Post's Lindsey Bever points out, before internet users were doing the Tide Pod challenge they were chugging milk by the gallon, eating heaping spoonfuls of cinnamon, lighting themselves on fire and throwing boiling water at one another.

The Republic survived each of these crises. It will probably survive Tide Pods too.

The centers reminds you that if you think your child has ingested laundry pods, diaper cream, mouthwash or deodorant, you can call the national poison help hotline at (800) 222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

ActiveStyle on 01/22/2018

Print Headline: Tide Pod ingesting is so 2017

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