Liquid Laundry Detergent Capsules (Liquitabs)
Liquid laundry detergents capsules, commonly known as "liquitabs" are concentrated liquid detergents, for single use, contained within soluble packaging which breaks down upon contact with water during a wash cycle to release the detergent product. Liquitabs 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, liquitabs 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.
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 liquitabs and it was 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 CLP Regulation was updated in 2014 to include additional safety measures for liquitabs in soluble packaging.
These additional safety measures are set out in Article 35 (2) and Annex II, Section 3.3 of CLP and includes specific provisions for the outer packaging containing liquitabs and the liquitabs themselves, as follows:
Outer packaging must:
- be opaque,
- include the text ‘Keep out of reach of children’ in a visible place that attracts attention,
- be self -standing and easily reclosable,
- contain a closure that will impede the ability of a young child to open it, requiring the coordination of two hands and with a strength that makes it difficult for a young child to open it, and
- maintain its functionality when repeatedly opened and closed during its life span.
The soluble packaging of each individual liquitab must:
- contain an aversive agent, at a safe concentration, which makes it repulsive if put in the mouth within 6 seconds,
- retain the liquid detergent for at least 30 seconds when placed in water at 20 degrees, and
- resist mechanical strength test of at least 300N under standard test conditions.
Safe Use of Liquid Laundry Detergent 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 consumer educational campaigns and awareness-raising initiatives on-going in Europe and globally to make people aware of the risks associated with liquitabs including:
Keep Caps from Kids: The detergents industry initiative "Keep Caps from Kids" is intended 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 https://www.keepcapsfromkids.eu/
Liquid Laundry Detergent Capsules - Guidelines on implementation: Following the amendment to CLP in 2014, the detergent industry introduced a guidance document to support industry meet the CLP obligations. For more information please see here
Product Stewardship Programme: The detergent industry have a Product Stewardship Programme to cover all liquid detergent capsules. For more details please see here.