According to a recently released report, during a 6-month period, doctors treated six cases of severe eye injuries in young children, caused by their squeezing capsules containing liquid washing detergent.
Study author Dr. Noel Horgan of the Children's University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, says it appears that children instinctively grasp and squeeze these gel-liquid tablets, which can burst relatively easily in the hand, and sometimes splash the caustic contents in their eyes.
Horgan says it is important that in order to keep children safe from detergent, parents need to take extra precautions, and store such products in cupboards out of children's reach.
In explaining Horgan said that the children received alkali eye injuries, which are considered to be the most severe form of chemical eye injury.
Alkali eye injuries occur when an alkaline substance, such as detergent or lime in plaster or cement, comes in contact with the eye, damaging the stem cells at the edge of the cornea.
This it seems is very significant because these stem cells provide new cells to line the surface of the cornea and are essential for clarity and normal vision.
In severe cases, stem cells can be permanently damaged, permanently affecting vision.
Fortunately, all of the children included in the report, received prompt treatment such as eye irrigation, anesthetic drops, antibiotics, and steroids to reduce inflammation, so they eventually left hospital with healed eyes and normal vision, says Horgan.
Horgan and his team report that the children ranged in age from 18 months to 3 years old, and all experienced eye injuries after playing with gel-capsules of washing detergent, designed to go directly into the washing machine.
Horgan has also recommended that manufacturers make warning labels more prominent, and design packages childproof.
The report is published in the medical journal The Lancet, August 13, 2005.