Liquid detergent tablets pose eye injury risk to children

08/10/05

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday August 12, 2005. In North America the embargo lifts at 6:30pm ET Thursday August 11, 2005.

Liquid tablet forms of washing detergent pose a new household risk to children, state the authors of a correspondence letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Noel Horgan (Children's University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland) and colleagues treated six children, over a 6-month period, with alkali eye injury caused by a liquid detergent tablet. The children, aged 18 months to 3 years, had squeezed a tablet causing it to burst and spray detergent over their eyes. The children presented with damage to the cells lining the cornea, and four had significant injury to the conjunctiva--the thin transparent tissue that covers the outer surface of the eye. All patients were admitted to hospital and stayed for 2 to 5 days. The damaged eye cells eventually healed. The authors note that more serious damage may have resulted if the children had not had prompt irrigation of their eyes after the chemical splash.

Dr Horgan states: "Alkali eye injuries are potentially the most severe form of chemical eye injury…Although the detergent packaging displays a warning that the contents are irritant, and that the products should be kept out of reach of children, the real risk of injury posed may not be appreciated by consumers. We propose that the warning label should be more obvious, and that the packaging should be modified to make it child proof."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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