Washing capsules now contain 'bittering agent' to stop kids eating them
Makers of laundry capsules - which can cause serious harm to children if ingested - will have to comply with new EU rules from tomorrow.
The products that are used daily by millions of consumers pose a serious risk to children who confuse them for sweets or toys. This can lead to poisoning and cause significant health damage.
From January 1, the coating of capsules must contain a 'bittering agent' that will make children spit them out within six seconds.
Manufacturers must also use stronger packaging, which will be more difficult for small hands to open, and larger warnings which tell consumers to keep the products out of reach of children.
The rules come after a number of poisoning cases involving young children who have mistaken the colourful pods for sweets or toys.
In Ireland, the National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC) received over 700 calls in relation to this since 2012.
From the period January 1 to September 30, 2015, there were 144 enquiries received.
The problem is more likely to occur the younger a child is, according to Nicola Cassidy of the NPIC.
"In 2014, 96pc of the children were under five and 69pc of those were aged between one and two.
"These figures don't reflect all cases of poisoning but the numbers who contacted us about poisoning."
The majority of calls received were in relation to swallowing of the tablets, which have become more popular.
"Vomiting is common with poisoning and capsules can burst inside," Ms Cassidy said.
"There were also some calls about eye exposure and skin exposure, and it can cause significant eye injuries.
"Children can develop a cough when they inhale the liquid and get drowsiness or breathing difficulties.
"Rarely there are burns to the mouth, throat and airways.
"There was a recent case of a young girl who had to be ventilated after poisoning. It is rare, but it does happen."
Parents are still advised to be cautious of letting the capsules into small hands.
"It is difficult to say if it will decrease the number of calls but through more public awareness we are hopeful that the rules will help to reduce the number of poisoning cases.
"Parents must still be vigilant. We encourage them to keep these products out of reach and out of sight of children."
The new rules are the result of talks between member states, the European Commission and the industry.
This follows successful similar EU measures on scented lamp oil and coloured lighter fuel which were attractive to small children.
The NPIC helpline is open for any parents with concerns from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week, on (01) 809 2166.