This Is the Most Dangerous Thing About the Viral ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

person putting laundry pod in mouth

Kids are daring each other to eat laundry pods. | kyletperry/iStock/Getty Images

Teenagers are eating Tide Pods.

Yes, sometimes the most bizarre things are true. The latest sensation to sweep the internet may also be one of the dumbest, with teens across the country vying to outdo one another for the title of “most likely to follow the crowd even if it kills me.” If one of their best friends jumped off a bridge, no doubt they wouldn’t be far behind.

These viral video challenges all have one thing in common: They’re stupid. But beyond just being completely idiotic to anyone with a modicum of common sense, they can also be dangerous and might even lead to injuries or death.

This is one of the worst viral challenges of all time — and one of the most dangerous.

What is the Tide Pod challenge?

Colorful, squishy packets called Tide Pods are sold for one purpose and one purpose only: to make the endless drudgery of laundry a little easier.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement to parents several years ago, warning them against the danger of young children consuming Tide Pods. They probably never imagined they’d have to extend this warning to teenagers who should definitely know better.

Essentially, the challenge involves teens taking videos of one another biting into a Tide Pod and ingesting the laundry detergent inside.

Next: Here’s where it all began.

It all started out as a joke

child playing with toys

The Onion wrote a satirical piece about a toddler who wants to eat the pods. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

It’s unclear exactly how the trend began.

The Onion published a satirical op-ed in 2015 from the perspective of a toddler who wanted to eat the pods. It was called, “So Help Me God, I’m Going to Eat One of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods.”

A site called College Humor published a YouTube video in March 2017 called “Don’t Eat the Laundry Pods. (Seriously. They’re Poison.)” The star of the video refers to the pods as “Gushers” and “candy ravioli.” After a long stretch of trying to resist the temptation of eating a pod, the man gives in to his desires and starts shoving pods into his mouth. His poor judgment lands him on an ambulance stretcher saying, “I don’t regret it!”

Next: This trend is particularly frightening.

Both kids and teens are ingesting laundry detergent pods

teens sitting outside looking at phone

Teens are ingesting them intentionally. | Oneinchpunch/iStock/Getty Images

No matter where it originated, the trend started gaining traction and news coverage toward the end of 2017.

In 2017, poison control centers received reports of more than 10,000 children under 5 accidentally ingesting the laundry detergent pods, along with cases of 220 teens, The Washington Post reported. About 25% of the teen cases were intentional. In January 2018, there were 37 cases of teen exposure, and half of them were intentional. Many of them are ingesting the pods on a dare.

Next: What happens when you eat one?

Some scary stuff happens when you eat a Tide Pod

person holding stomach

One symptom of ingesting the pods is vomiting. | champja/iStock/Getty Images

Children who accidentally ingest laundry detergent pods experience symptoms including vomiting, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness. There have been eight reported fatalities in children under 5 since 2012, according to The Washington Post.

But poisoning is only part of the concern for the Tide Pod challenge. Kids and teens can also aspirate on the liquid by inhaling it too quickly, which can cause a dangerous change in blood pressure or heart rate, leading to seizures and loss of consciousness. People with asthma may not realize they’re at a higher risk for these complications.

Next: The videos are being banned here.

YouTube is working to censor the harmful content

a screenshot of YouTube

YouTube is working to remove flagged videos. | YouTube

In January 2018, YouTube spokeswoman Jessica Mason said they would, “work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies,” according to The Washington Post. The official statement goes on to say that, “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm.”

The original College Humor video that might have inspired the phenomenon is still live, but it has a gated entry warning, stating that the video, “may be inappropriate for some users.”

Next: An NFL star is helping with damage control.

Gronk says eating Tide Pods is a bad idea

Rob Gronkowski

He took part in a public service announcement about not eating the pods. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Proctor & Gamble is not pleased that people are eating its laundry detergent.

Company spokeswoman Petra Renck said, “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,” according to The Washington Post.

P&G also released a public service announcement featuring New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. The PSA condemns the trend, saying Tide Pods should be used for doing laundry and nothing else.

Next: Could the danger mean the end of Tide Pods?

No, they aren’t pulling Tide Pods off the shelves

woman choosing cleaning products in a store

You can still buy them. | JackF/iStock/Getty Images

A fake tweet started circulating shortly after news of the dangerous challenge went viral. The tweet appeared to come from the official Tide account and said, “We regret to inform you, we will be removing Tide Pods from shelves starting February 1st. It’s been a good run, but we can’t risk lives over having clean clothes.”

Snopes declared the tweet fake, pointing out that it was unlikely Tide would forget to properly capitalize the name of its own product. (It’s technically POD, not Pod.) The tweet also doesn’t have a timestamp and can’t be found on the official account’s timeline.

Read more: Toxic! Household Products You Didn’t Know Were Poisonous

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