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detergent-packetsYou’ve probably seen those nifty little laundry detergent gel packs. The ones you just pop in the washing machine without worrying about heavy bottles or messy spills? Have you noticed how their tiny size and bright colors make them look surprisingly appealing—almost like a piece of candy or an infant teething toy? Kids are apparently thinking the same thing, according to a new study, resulting in a wave of accidental poisonings and at least two deaths.

The convenient, single-load packets first entered the market about two years ago, and currently about ten different brands offer them. From the beginning, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voiced concern they may be a threat to public health. However, production continued and since then more than 17,000 children—roughly one child every hour—have been harmed due to exposure, either by ingesting the toxic contents or getting the concentrated detergent in their eyes.

The new study, led by Dr. Gary Smith of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, takes into account all cases of poisoning reported to the National Poison Data System since 2012. (However, researchers point out that because such reporting is voluntary, there may be many more unreported cases.) Most cases involved ingestion, and symptoms seen most often were vomiting, coughing and choking, along with eye irritation and sluggishness. Thirty children went into comas and 12 suffered seizures.

According to a recent New York Times article, the packets have caused nearly 6,000 emergency room visits and 750 hospitalizations—half of which required intensive care. One of the biggest problems experts have found is that only a very thin layer of dissolvable plastic surrounds the harmful detergent—a layer that can be broken easily when bitten by little mouths. One mother said she simply dropped a packet on the ground, and within seconds it was in her child’s mouth, resulting in intensive care treatment for her son.

Despite warnings from consumer advocacy groups, poison centers and manufacturers to keep the detergent packets out of the reach and sight of children, accidents continue to happen. In response, some manufacturers have made the product packaging less appealing and harder to open. Health officials would also like to see better labeling concerning the extreme health risks involved, as well as increased public education on product safety.

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candyOh, how we love the sweet stuff—from candy, cupcakes and sugary soft drinks to starchy carbohydrates like grains that break down into sugar in the digestive tract. And while it’s easy to see how that love affair can affect their waistlines, too many Americans are blind to its impact on their overall health.

Now, a team of experts from the University of California are bringing home the hard truth using a website designed to encourage people to kick the sugar habit.

Launched this month, SugarScience.org reveals “the unsweetened truth” about hidden sugar and the health risks associated with a high-sugar diet. Scientists and public health professionals poured through more than 8,000 scientific papers to create a resource of peer-reviewed and -supported research that is easily accessible to the general public.

The SugarScience team says their goal is to help individuals and communities make healthy choices, and it begins with understanding just how dangerous sugar is to human health. For example, too much added sugar from soda and sports drinks can overload critical organs over time, leading to serious diseases, according to a statistic from the website.

Check out SugarScience.org today to learn more!

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