The Tide Pod Challenge: Rumors and Consequences

February 8, 2018

In 2012, the Tide Pod was released to make the chore of doing laundry more efficient. The Procter & Gamble product increased the number of calls to poison control, as children began to mistake colorful pod for candy that it clearly resembled.


In more recent times, starting in about December 2017, jokes about eating Tide Pods became an internet phenomenon for the same reason of their appealing appearance. More recently in January, the joke of eating them elevated to actual action as someone posted a YouTube video of themselves eating a pod. It was coined the Tide Pod Challenge. In a press release, Stephen Kaminski JD, American Association of Poison Control Center’s (AAPCC) CEO and Executive Director stated that “during the first two weeks of 2018, poison control centers handled 39 cases of teens intentionally exposed to a liquid laundry packet.” He also stated that in the week prior to the press release that “[they’ve] seen another 47 cases, for a total of 86 between January 1 and January 21, 2018.”


Dr. Michael Lynch, M.D., medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center and AAPCC spokesperson described the chemical effect of the toxic ingredients of a Tide Pod has on the body after consumption. As it first enters your mouth, the coating dissolves with the contact of water, and the detergent seeps through and into your mouth. The pH of the chemicals in the detergent instantly kill the cells in your mouth upon contact and produce a burning sensation. As your immune system detects the burning sensation from the chemicals, swelling of the contacted area occurs in response to the exposure.  As the detergent is swallowed, the throat contracts and causes breathing to become very difficult, additionally damaging mucus membranes. Ulcers and bleeding may be very likely with this type of exposure. In the case that the detergent reaches the stomach and further into the digestive tract, the concentration of the irritant is much lower therefore only causing minor irritation such as the production excess of stomach acid and heartburn. Above all, the compromised breathing and other complications could result anywhere from irritating symptoms to death after eating a Tide Pod.


Though it has been falsely rumored that Tide will take the product off shelves in response to the dangerous phenomenon, they have tweeted about the danger of consuming their product by teaming up with Patriots player Rob Gronkowski to produce a video to discourage eating Tide Pods. In addition to this, a Tide representative disclosed,  “We are deeply concerned about conversations related to the intentional and improper use of liquid laundry packs and have been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies.”


Above all, the “glory” of consuming a Tide Pod is not worth the consequences, and if one is found in a situation where they or another person has eaten a Tide Pod, the National Poison Help Hotline can be reached at 1-800-222-1222.


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