Detergent Tablets May Pose Eye Injury Threat

Wash Eye Promptly and Seek Medical Attention

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Aug. 11, 2005 - Liquid detergent tablets pose a risk for potentially serious eye injury in children, according to a new Irish study.

Liquid detergent tablets are a relatively new form of laundry detergent. They are designed to be placed directly into a washing machine.

Children who come into contact with the tablets may see them as a toy and squeeze them. Doing so can cause the tablets to burst, resulting in alkali eye injuries.

Alkali injuries are potentially the most severe form of chemical eye injury, write the researchers. The damage that can occur to the cornea and other eye structures can lead to significant vision loss if not treated promptly.

Warning Labels Insufficient

The tablets' packaging displays a warning that the contents are irritants. It also says the products should be kept out of reach of children.

But consumers may not realize the extent of injury posed, according to the study.

"The packaging should be modified to make it childproof," says Neal Horgan of the department of ophthalmology, Children's University Hospital, Dublin, in a news release.

Horgan and his colleagues treated six children who had squeezed a tablet, causing it to burst and spray detergent over their eyes. Youngsters ranged from 18 months to three years. All had had their eyes thoroughly washed out immediately after the chemical splash.

The youngsters were treated over a six-month period. Each child spent two to five days in the hospital. The extent of their injuries varied. Four had significant damage to the cornea, the thin transparent tissue covering the eye's outer surface. All of the injuries eventually healed.

A Call for Prompt Irrigation

More serious damage may have resulted if the children had not had prompt irrigation of their eyes after the chemical splash, says Horgan.

After thoroughly washing out the eye, you should seek prompt medical attention.

Researchers also felt the warning label on the tablets should be more obvious. "We have conveyed our concerns to the manufacturers. In the meantime, we feel that it is appropriate to increase awareness of the risk of potential injury," he says.

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SOURCES: Horgan, N. The Lancet, Aug. 8, 2005; vol 366: pp 547-548.
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