Dangerous products should be kept out of reach of children… check.
Parents have known this for thousands of years. So why do we have a news story like this one? Because we are reminded that human nature likes to blame others for bad things happening rather than ourselves.
Sure, at the very least, this news story about laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid “tabs” should remind us that just because dangerous chemicals are “contained” in a plastic tab does not mean that they are safe to put in the reach of children. What becomes frustrating as a cultural observer is what previous generations would have dubbed “common sense” is no longer so common. The example NBC News used to illustrate this problem was a mother of a young child whose grandmother mistook the “tab” for a teething ring and placed it in the child’s mouth. Because the “tabs” are designed to be water soluble, obviously it didn’t take long for the dangerous substance within the “tab” to find its way out of the “tab”.
Why did the grandmother think that this “tab” was a teether?
I suppose because these products are fairly new she could have mistaken the “tab” for a baby teether. But why? Why was the “tab” in a location where the grandmother would have made such a mistake? Wouldn’t all the “tabs” (for either laundry or dishwashing) be in a container under the sink in cabinet with a childproof lock or up on a shelf out of the reach of the child near the washer and dryer? If so, then why did the grandmother think to take a “tab” out of a container with a bunch of other “tabs” that perhaps was labeled as laundry detergent or dishwashing tabs?
If this was a case where the childproof lock didn’t work or an errant “tab” fell out and the caregivers were unaware and then a child found that “tab”, then sure, I can see how a child would mistakenly see a colorful, mouthable object and eat it. These accidental cases happen all the time, and not just with “tabs.” But the example NBC News put forth to talk about this issue is fraught with irresponsibility. It is very frustrating that blame is placed on the product itself when the caregivers are so obviously at fault.
There were 17,230 calls to poison control as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
NBC News did not reveal over what period of time that number was reached. I don’t know how long these “tabs” have been around, but our family has used them for at least a couple of years. In the absence of the responsible news organization telling us the time frame for this “high” number, we could assume, at the very least, that those calls have came in since these “tabs” have existed (2+ years). For the audiences’ comparison, how many cases of other ingestible chemicals occurred in that same time frame? It would have been responsible for NBC News to report timeframes and comparisons instead of reporting these numbers in isolation.
This news story has so many problems with it that it was frustrating to watch. It doesn’t accurately report much of anything other than presenting a child who ingested a “tab” and is okay as well as telling viewers that bad things happen when something like this is consumed by a child.
The newer innovation of packaging dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent is not inherently good or bad. I’m sure that it’s a responsible thing for companies to put warning labels on the product’s packaging and launching information campaigns to help re-educate the public on a new product and its potential misuse or accidental acquirement by those it is not intended for. I am also not saying that of those 17,230 children there are not accidental situations that happen. As a father and an advocate of children, I am so appreciative of being able to reach Poison Control in the event of accidental ingestion of a chemical.
While Poison Control is helpful in accidental cases, if I were to leave “tabs” lying around where my grandmother would mistake them for a baby teether, then I or my grandmother would be to blame for such oversight, not the makers of convenient “tabs.”
What I am advocating for in this post, and the reason why this is has struck a chord in me, is addressing the responsibility problem.
- Are we blaming the manufacturers for making the product colorful and bright?
- Do we expect a company representative to come to each of their consumer’s home to show how to use and safeguard such products?
- Are we addressing, as in this illustrated example, who is really to blame for what happened?
- Should this story have been about the attractiveness of “tabs” to children or childproofing your home and your grandmother?
My “favorite” part of this story was the end where the reporter asked the Mom if she uses those “tabs” anymore. The Mom replied, “I don’t. It’s just not worth the risk to me anymore.” To which the reporter concluded, that “for this Mom the convenience came at too high a price.”
The real question should have been: “Does the grandmother know better now?”
source NBC News
Update: I mistakenly shared that NBC News did not give a timeframe for the study by the American Association of Pediatrics. They did. It was two years. A commenter pointed that out and I have corrected that in the post.