The Tide pod challenge (and why to avoid it)


Juanmonino @ istock

Close-up shot of tide pod capsules spilling out from their fishbowl-shaped container.

Sadhana Suri, Staff writer

Washing out your child’s mouth with soap was once seen as a punishment; now, every figure of authority from YouTube management to the local police department are actively trying to keep young adults from doing just that.

In just the first 15 days of the new year, poison control centers received 39 calls related to the ingestion of Tide pods – the same number they received in the entire year of 2016, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Experts agreed that the fragrant, colorful pods may be attractive to toddlers and younger children, but were surprised by the number of teenagers and young adults who bit into the packets.

“People might bite into laundry pods and then spit out them out to show off to their friends or gain attention on the Internet, or just to prove something to other people,” senior Lulu Lin said. “No sane person would do it, though.”

Why would someone willingly choose to ingest the pods on a casual basis?

The Tide Pod Challenge, the Internet’s breakout meme for early 2018, centers around the idea that brightly colored laundry detergent packets resemble delicious colorful candies, so naturally, of course, they should be eaten…right?

Wrong. Putting Tide pods or any other kind of laundry detergent packet in your mouth and near your face is a very bad idea. How bad of an idea is it, you ask?

“The alkalis and acids found in the contents of the packet…cause painful burns and even blindness,” director of the Emergency Departments at Westchester Medical Center Dr. Ivan Miller said. “Other very concentrated chemicals in detergent can cause sleepiness, or even coma…there are chemicals — ethoxylated alcohols, surfactant — which cause severe effects on the lungs and other areas of the body.”

What’s more, children and teens alike can aspirate on the liquid contents of the pods by inhaling it into their lungs, according to the Florida Poison Information Center. Because most teens have not had any need for a thorough medical exam, they may not be aware of their underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, that put them more at risk for complications from the detergent substances.

In response to national headlines concerning laundry pod consumption, Tide’s parent company released a public service announcement on social media to discourage improper use of detergent packets. Likewise, in accordance with their Community Guidelines/policies, YouTube has continued to remove any and all videos of teens participating in both the Tide Pod challenge and the Forbidden Food Challenge, in which various colorful objects, such as game console chips and styluses are also bit on.

“Would I ever take part in (the Forbidden Food Challenge)? No way,” senior Nadia Ali said. “I get the whole “Do it for the vine” vibes the meme has, but it’s going too far – it’s just not worth a trip to the ER.”

AAPCC reminds you that if you think a friend has ingested laundry pods or any other dangerous household chemical, you can call the national poison help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.