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Yes, teenagers are really doing this, and doctors warn of dangerous consequences

A label is attached to a package of laundry detergent packets warning of the danger to children. Teens are eating laundry detergent pods and posting the videos of themselves on social media, and doctors warn it could be dangerous.
A label is attached to a package of laundry detergent packets warning of the danger to children. Teens are eating laundry detergent pods and posting the videos of themselves on social media, and doctors warn it could be dangerous. Associated Press

Before reading on, please remember: we were all teenagers once, and most of us, probably on more than one occasion, did something that left our parents shaking their heads and asking, “What the heck were you thinking?”

Meet the latest social media challenge becoming popular with teens who want to get more likes or clicks online – the laundry pod or “Tide Pod Challenge” – and doctors are warning about the potentially dangerous side effects.

Teens in the United States are putting laundry detergent pods in their mouths and posting videos of themselves doing so to YouTube or other social media platforms.

According to a story about the challenge on globalnews.ca, the idea for the challenge may date back to 2015 and an article on theonion.com satire website wrote from the prospective of a toddler determined to eat a detergent pod. That article came after reports and cautions to parents about the dangers of the new laundry pods to toddlers, who thought they looked like candy.

The latest trend, though, goes well beyond that, as teenagers know full well what they are eating.

A quick search of YouTube will return dozens of videos of teens trying to impress the social universe by boldly popping a laundry pod in their mouths and biting into it or even cooking with the pods. Compilations have even been made:

Doctors warn that ingesting detergent can have consequences, some of which may be life threatening.

“Most of the problem comes from the coating itself,” Dr. Joe Krug, said to Fox59 in Indianapolis, Indiana. “You’ll get burns to the skin, burns to the eye, (and) more severe burns to the respiratory tract, burns to the esophagus.”

The pods include ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and polymers, Global News reported. The Center for Disease Control says ingestion could cause vomiting, coughing, drowsiness and nausea, as well as irritation and conjunctivitis if it gets in the eyes. If any of the detergent gets in the lungs, it can also cause respiratory distress.

The number for the Washington Poison Center is 800-222-1222, or you can call 911 if you or someone you know has ingested a poisonous substance.

According to a story on cbsnews.com, laundry pods have caused at least 10 deaths, though none were teenagers – two were toddlers and eight were seniors with dementia. But more than 62,000 children under the age of 6 were exposed to laundry and dishwasher detergents between 2013 and 2014.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of people who use our products,” Procter and Gamble, the maker of Tide Pods, said in a statement to ABC News. “They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke.”

So why is this challenge so attractive to teens?

In Marc Pagan’s video of his taking the challenge his says he’s “bored.”

“I don’t know why I’m doing it,” Pagan said in the video. “I’m just doing it, and I know I shouldn’t do it. I don’t want to do it, but I’m doing it, and I don’t know how to explain myself right now.”

While not every teen is accepting the challenge, others have started to get a little more creative with the idea:

Makes you long for the days when your parents would make you wash your mouth out for using bad language, doesn’t it?

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