Dishwasher tablets, powders, and pods are commonplace throughout most New Zealand homes. The National Poisons Centre regularly receives calls regarding exposures to these products, and the residue that is often left behind following a cycle when powder and tablet products are used. These exposures most commonly involve young children.
Previously, these products had different formulations, and many were highly alkaline that could cause serious burns when ingested or if the product went in the eye or on the skin.
In 2007, legislation was introduced which saw the pH of household dishwasher products decreased, making them less alkaline. Burns are less likely to occur following exposures to current formulations on the market. Although these products have become safer, they can still cause severe irritation following ingestion, eye, or skin contact. Commercial dishwasher products were not covered by the legislation change and still have the potential to cause serious burns.
Liquid filled pod varieties of dishwasher products have become more popular in recent years. Some of these pods can look like lollies to young children, therefore increasing the risk of ingestion. Pods bursting in the mouth can cause significant harm. After any exposure, patients or parents should seek medical advice from the National Poisons Centre or a doctor without delay.
What to do?
NOTE IF PATIENT IS (OR BECOMES) UNCONCIOUS OR HAS DIFFICULTY BREATHING - DIAL 111 IMMEDIATELY
- If swallowed or bitten - a small rinse or wipe out of the mouth is recommended
- DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING (this is not recommended for ANY exposures)
- If in eyes or on skin - begin flushing with copious amounts of water
- CALL 0800 764 766 to speak with a Poisons Information Officer
- Have the product container with you while you call. This will assist the Poisons Centre in quickly identifying which ingredients the product contains and allow for correct treatment advice to be given
Tips for preventing exposures in your home
- Dishwasher powders and tablets should be stored out of reach in a locked, child resistant cupboard
- Child safety cupboard locks can be purchased from hardware stores and specialist baby shops and are easy to install
- Extra caution must be taken while using dishwasher powders, as this is when most poisonings occur. It only takes a moment for little hands to grab!
- Following a cycle, and before you begin unloading the dishwasher, the dispenser should be checked for powder residue or any undissolved tablet. Remove and clean to reduce the chance of an exposure
- Keep the dishwasher closed and locked as much as possible when not in use
- After every use the dishwasher powder/tablets should be returned immediately to its secure storage cupboard
- Child-resistant closures need to be used correctly to limit the chances of poisoning. Always replace child resistant caps correctly. Never leave a lid off to make it easier to use the product; this also makes it easier for a child to be poisoned
- Always choose dishwasher powder products with flow restrictors; in the unfortunate situation of an exposure, the amount taken will be reduced