Satire and a Warning, but No Injuries

At least one college warns its students about the "Tide pod challenge," but so far there have been no publicized cases of college students getting sick after eating laundry detergent packets.

January 24, 2018
 
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A university told its students that laundry detergent was for "clothes, not mouths" this week, in response to a baffling (and potentially deadly) social media challenge.

Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology sent an email Tuesday dissuading students from ingesting laundry detergent pods, as the "Tide pod challenge" emerges on social media and in news reports.

Participants in the fad, usually teenagers, have recorded videos of themselves consuming the brightly colored detergent packets and posting the evidence to social media platforms.

“Please remember -- liquid laundry detergent packets are meant to clean clothes, not mouths,” wrote Amber Goulart, Wentworth’s coordinator of wellness education.

Goulart's email was partially inspired by a report Saturday that a Utah State University student had been hospitalized after ingesting a Tide pod, said a Wentworth spokesperson. However, Utah State said the student's injury was not related to the pod fad.

No cases of injuries related to pod consumption have been reported at Wentworth.

The American Association of Poison Control expressed "significant concerns" about the Tide pod trend in a warning earlier this month, saying consumption of the detergent packets has serious health implications, including seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma and death. According to the data, there is cause for concern: in the first 15 days of January, poison control centers around the country fielded 39 cases where teenagers were intentionally exposed to detergent packets. This number is as many as in all of 2016, the Association of Poison Control wrote.

In response, Tide has repeatedly warned consumers against ingesting pods, posting a video to Twitter in which Rob Gronkowski, a player for the NFL's New England Patriots, attempted to discourage the trend. But the Procter & Gamble-owned company has no plans to discontinue the line, according to a tweet published by Tide Monday night.

Online jokes about eating Tide pods can be traced to an article published by satirical news site The Onion in 2015. The article, "So Help Me God, I’m Going to Eat One of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods," was written from the perspective of a toddler. In addition, the popular YouTube channel College Humor last year published a piece dubbed "Don’t Eat The Laundry Pods." The video, which depicts a college student eating numerous pods, is now age restricted and includes a warning in its description.

Only two days ago, the student newspaper at the University of California, Davis, The California Aggie, published a satirical piece suggesting students ate laundry pods to avoid class.

“With winter quarter strutting through the door like a cowboy no one invited to the saloon, students have grown even more infatuated with these little wonders,” Olivia Luchini wrote of Tide pods.

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