Parents and Childminders Urged to be Aware of Dangers of Detergent Liquid Capsules to Children

Wednesday 18 March 2015

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC) have today (Wednesday 18 March) jointly issued a plea to parents and childminders to store and use liquid detergents capsules safely.

The products, also known as liquitabs,  are small and colourful  and there is concern that children are mistaking these capsules for toys or sweets. In the period from 2011 to 2014 there were over 720 enquiries to the National Poisons Information Centre at Beaumount Hospital about liquitabs, the majority of these involved children under 3.

Dr Edel Duggan, Clinical Director with the National Poisons Information Centre says accidental exposure to these products can be very dangerous for small children.

“If the liquid comes into contact with the eyes it can cause conjunctivitis, eye pain and damage to the cornea potentially resulting in temporary blindness.  If the liquid is swallowed, it can result in severe vomiting and respiratory distress. It can also cause a rash if it comes into contact with the skin.

Our advice is for parents and childminders to store the liquitabs out of reach and sight, preferably in a locked cupboard. When using the liquitabs read the instructions and safety messages on the labels. They should not be taken out when children are close by and should only be handled with dry hands. It is important that they are stored in their original container and the lid is closed properly after use.”

In case of accidental exposure, the HSA and NPIC advise that if the liquid is swallowed rinse as much of the detergent as possible from the child’s mouth with water and do not induce vomiting. If it comes into contact with the hands, wash thoroughly. If it gets into a child’s eyes, rinse them carefully with water for 10-15 minutes. In any event call a doctor, the Poison Control Centre (01 - 809 2166) or go to your nearest medical emergency department.

The majority of cleaning products used in the home, including laundry products, are regulated by the HSA.  Yvonne Mullooly, Senior Inspector with the Authority says that a combination of voluntary industry programmes and legislation should bring improvements. “We have engaged with the manufacturers of these liquitabs at national level to make changes to the packaging so they are less accessible to small children. We also brought this issue to the attention of the EU Commission and other EU Countries which resulted in the introduction of emergency legislation for the packaging in 2014. Industry has been active and will have to adapt to these new legislative changes in a short period of time.”

The OECD is currently running an international awareness fortnight (March 16 – 27) to highlight this issue and it will also be discussed on the Consumer Show this evening at 8.30pm on RTE 1.

Further information is available from and