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What are the dangers of ingesting dishwashing detergent

Updated April 17, 2017

Ingesting dishwashing detergent happens more often than you think, especially to small children. When toddlers learn to crawl, they can reach the cupboard that contains the detergent. Small children are the most likely to make the mistake of confusing a bottle of dishwashing detergent for a baby bottle. This is especially disturbing because of their small size, amplifying the toxic effect. Certain ingredients used in dishwashing detergent can be poisonous. According to the Riley Hospital for Children, "Every 30 seconds, a childhood poisoning occurs in the United States. In 1998, more than 1.1 million unintentional poisonings among children ages 1 to 5 were reported."

Potassium Carbonate

The MSDS sheet for potassium carbonate states,"Causes respiratory tract irritation. May be harmful if swallowed. Causes eye and skin irritation and possible burns. May cause severe digestive tract irritation with possible burns." This means that if it is consumed in large amounts it can chemically burn your digestive tract. If consumed do not induce vomiting, instead drink two to four glasses of milk and call poison control.

Sodium Carbonate

According to Medline Plus,"Sodium carbonate is usually not very toxic. However, if you swallow very large amounts, you may have symptoms. In this rare situation, long-term effects, even death, are possible if you do not receive quick and aggressive treatment." This is especially true if an infant or small child consumes the dishwashing detergent. If your child consumes ANY amount of sodium carbonate take them to the emergency room immediately.

Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide is a chemical that has a very basic pH.The last place you would expect a poisoning from this substance is in a nursing home. According to Terry Law Firm, "A man with Alzheimers who lived at the Homewood Residence at Delray Beach, an assisted living facility in Delray Beach, Florida, managed to sneak past caretakers and consume dishwasher detergent containing sodium hydroxide. Immediate medical attention was not taken. Eighteen hours later he died from severe burns to his oesophagus. If an elderly patient can manage to sneak past medical supervision and consume dish detergent so can your child.

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About the Author

Samuel Sohlden began his freelance writing career in 2007. His work appears on various websites, with articles focusing on science and health. In 2010 he attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif. Sohlden is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from the University of Cincinnati.