Liquid Laundry Detergent Capsules (Liquitabs)
Liquid consumer laundry detergents in soluble packaging, or, as they are commonly known "liquitabs" or "liquid laundry detergent capsules", contain concentrated liquid detergent for single use within a soluble package which breaks down upon contact with water during a wash cycle to release the detergent product.
Such liquid laundry detergent products are small and colourful which makes them attractive to young children who may be tempted to put them in their mouth or play with them. When moist, these products can burst in a child's hand, potentially irritating the eyes and skin. They can also dissolve quickly and may burst in a child's mouth in a very short period of time (within seconds) causing the contents to escape quickly and if swallowed can cause severe injuries such as breathing difficulties requiring intubation. Please see HSA Press Release from 18 March 2015 for more details.
The main symptoms and consequences of exposure can be:
- If ingested: severe vomiting, coughing, respiratory disorders, nausea, drowsiness and rash.
- In case of contact with the eyes: conjunctivitis, eye pain, eye irritation.
- In case of contact with the skin: skin rash, skin irritation, chemical burn.
Incidents of Accidental Poisoning:
A significant number of severe incidents of ingestion and eye damage involving infants and young children have been reported by Poison Centres in several EU countries regarding liquid laundry detergent capsules and it is noted that there is a higher accident rate with this type of laundry detergent compared to consumer laundry detergents in other packaging systems.
In response to the incidents reported, the EU Commission in 2014 adopted a new Regulation on additional safety measures for liquid laundry detergents in soluble packaging.
Safe Use of Laundry Liquid Capsules:
The Health and Safety Authority recommends that:
- all detergent products are stored safely out of the reach and sight of children at all times
- capsules must be kept in their original container and fully closed when not in use
- capsules must never be left outside their original containers
- capsules must never be given to children
- labels on the packaging must be read carefully.
Please see the National Poisons Information Centre website for further information on Poison Prevention tips.
More Information on Liquid Laundry Detergent Capsules
There are a number of campaigns and awareness-raising initiatives on-going in Europe and globally to make people aware of the risks associated with liquid laundry detergents in soluble packaging.
International Awareness campaign on laundry capsules #SafeLaundry:
The EU Commission is leading a global awareness activity at OECD level on the risks posed by liquid laundry detergent capsules. There will be an international awareness raising campaign on the week of the 16th-23rd March 2015. Safety alerts and messages for parents and child carers as well as for businesses and stakeholders will be released via a dedicated website, through social media, advertising and in the press. For more information please see the Commissions Laundry Capsules Awareness Campaign Webpage: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/consumer-marketing/events/150316_en.htm
The National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC):
NPIC is carrying out a study on the circumstances of accidental exposure to detergent capsules that are used in washing machines, dishwashers and as cleaning products. The study has been approved by Beaumont Hospital Ethics Committee and the results will be used to help prevent similar accidents happening in the future. Please see further details here.
"Keep Caps from Kids":
The detergents industry launched an initiative in September 2014 entitled "Keep Caps from Kids" to promote the safe use of liquid laundry detergent capsules in Europe. This consumer education campaign aims at ensuring the safe use and storage of liquid laundry detergent capsules by parents and child carers and to reduce the incidence of accidental exposure. Information on the campaign can be found at http://www.keepcapsfromkids.eu/uk.
AISE Product Stewardship Programme:
On 1 March 2015 the detergent industry has launched an updated A.I.SE. Product Stewardship Programme to cover all liquid detergent capsules. For more details please see here.
For further information please also see:
New Regulation for Liquid Laundry Detergents in Soluble Packaging
Liquid consumer laundry detergents in soluble packaging for single use are now further regulated under the CLP Regulation as amended by Regulation (EU) No 1297/2014.
This Regulation aims to provide additional protection to the general public, especially young children and other vulnerable persons from the specific hazards associated with liquid laundry detergent capsules.
The provisions in the Regulation intend to lower the accessibility and attractiveness of the laundry liquid detergent capsules to young children by making the capsules less visible in the packaging through the use of opaque outer packaging. The outer packaging will also need to be more difficult for children to open.
The Regulation requires that the soluble packaging itself must include an aversive agent (such as a bittering agent) to cause an immediate repulsive effect when in contact with the mouth in order to deter children from putting the capsule into their mouth. The soluble packaging must retain its liquid contents for at least 30 seconds when placed in water at 20°C and be capable of resisting mechanical compressive strength of at least 300N under standard test conditions.
In addition, the outer packaging must display warnings to alert parents and child-care providers that such products have to be kept out of reach of children.
The Regulation will enter into force on the 1st June 2015, by which time, all liquid laundry detergent capsule products must comply with the rules set out in the legislation.