Teen Tide Pod challenge: What to know about this disturbing online phenomenon

Posted at 9:53 AM, Jan 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-22 10:53:25-05
Social media has spurred the spread of dangerous “challenges” that are often carried out by bored teenagers.
From wounding your skin with an eraserburning yourself with salt and ice orspraying deodorant on your arm to the seriously dangerous Blue Whale Challenge—which is described as a “suicide game”—kids and teens are ending up with serious injuries and even dying.

And if you’re a parent or teen, you’re likely already aware of the newest challenge to hit the internet: the Tide Pod Challenge. This so-called challenge involves teens filming themselves eating Tide laundry detergent pods. Yes, people are popping these toxic packets into their mouths and eating them in the hopes of impressing viewers online.

Videos of people taking the Tide Pod Challenge quickly went viral, prompting YouTube to recently announce that it will be removing all videos involving people consuming the pods, as its community guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that have a risk of causing physical harm.

“We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies,” YouTube said in a statement.

The company considers removing videos when users flag them, and users whose videos are removed are at risk of their entire channel being deleted if they have receive too many flags.

In an earlier statement of its own, Tide’s parent company Proctor and Gamble said it was working with “leading social media sites” to encourage the removal of the videos.

“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,” a spokesperson told TIME. “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 company enlisted the help of NFL star Rob Gronkowski to discourage people from eating Tide Pods.

How did this “challenge” become a thing? Like a lot of viral videos, it seems to have started as an internet joke. The Onion, a satirical online news website, published a story in 2015 titled, “So Help Me God, I’m Going To Eat One Of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods.” Two years later, in March 2017, College Humor published a satirical video about eating the pods. Both of these stories were obviously produced as jokes, but, long story short, people eventually started filming themselves eating the pods and uploading the videos.

Before all that though, kids were accidentally eating the pods, prompting the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a warning to parents in 2013 about the liquid laundry detergent packets. The agency said that while the capsules are attractive to young children thanks to their colorful designs, they contain “highly concentrated, toxic detergent” that can cause harm.

In 2017, U.S. poison control centers received reports of more than 10,500 children younger than 5 who were exposed to the capsules. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2016 and 2017, poison control centers handled 39 and 53 cases of intentional exposures among 13 to 19 year olds. In the first 15 days of 2018 alone, centers already handled 39 intentional cases among the same age group.

Laundry pods also pose a danger to elderly dementia patients, leading companies like Proctor & Gamble to help spread awareness of the potentially fatal outcome of ingesting the pods.

For more information on the danger of Tide Pods, visit Tide’s website, which contains an entire page of safety tips related to its laundry pods. Some products come with child safety locks on their containers, as well as bitter pod coatings to deter ingestion.

If you or someone you know has eaten a laundry detergent pod, call the National Poison Help Hotline at (800) 222-1222.