January 19, 2018

The latest dangerous teen challenge involves eating Tide Pods, which can be harmful and potentially fatal.


In the “gallon challenge,” teens tried chugging a gallon of milk in 60 minutes without vomiting; the “cinnamon challenge” prompted attempts to eat a spoonful of ground cinnamon in less than 60 seconds without having anything to drink. There have been other dangerous challenges along the way that teens have issued and tried, and the newest is the “Tide Pod challenge.”

I had heard about it a few weeks back but it really started concerning me more when my high schooler shared with me a video that was going around on her social media channels. If she was seeing it, then all her friends were seeing it, and before you knew it, someone would think it would be “cool” to take up that challenge.

A recent trend among teenagers of eating Tide Pods — and uploading videos to various internet platforms, including video-sharing websites, social media and blogging platforms — has caused significant concern among poison control centers. The results can be potentially harmful or even deadly.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in the first 15 days of the new year, poison control centers received 39 such calls — the same number they received in all of 2016.

The laundry pods, which contain brightly colored detergent packaged in a clear film, dissolve easily in water. However, they can also release their toxic ingredients when they come into contact with saliva or wet hands, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The liquid detergent in the pods has a higher concentration of surfactants and chemicals that are responsible for stain removal. The ingredients in laundry pods might also cause seizures, fluid in the lungs, respiratory arrest, coma or death, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, Tide’s parent company, said in a statement provided to TIME magazine that, “We are deeply concerned about conversations related to intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs, and have been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies. Laundry pacs are made to clean clothes. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance, even if meant as a joke. Like all household cleaning products, they must be used properly and stored safely.”

The good news here is that YouTube will be pulling down videos depicting teens participating in this challenge. The bad news is that there will be other social media channels teens will go to in order to get their 15-30 seconds of fame.

What does that mean to you and me as a parent? Really watch your children and monitor their social media use. Educate yourself on these new trends so you can have a conversation with them early. No seconds of fame are worth the lifetime of harm you can cause your body.


This post was written by Purnima Unni, the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and a certified child passenger safety technician.  She is a wife and proud mother of two girls, ages 19 and 17.

Woman holds several pills in her palm

The Tennessee Poison Center is a comprehensive poison resource center. It is the statewide poison emergency information and resource center for the public and healthcare professionals. Reach the center at 1-800-222-1222. For more information, see the center’s website.