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Child dies after eating laundry packet

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An infant in central Florida died last week after accidentally eating a packet of concentrated laundry detergent, the state's Department of Children and Families said.

The death of the 7-month-old boy is believed to be the first associated with single-dose liquid detergent packets, which have been involved in a rash of unintentional ingestion by babies and toddlers since becoming widely available in the U.S. early last year. It heightens the stakes as consumer-products companies such as Procter & Gamble Co. try to stop the problem by modifying their packaging and warning consumers.

The brand of detergent in the Florida case was All Mighty Pacs Free & Clear, made by Sun Products Corp., people familiar with the matter said. The detergent packets were colorless.

Kathryn Corbally, Sun Products' director of corporate affairs, said the company hadn't been notified directly by authorities but had heard that its product was involved. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the child who died," Ms. Corbally said. She said the company takes safety seriously.

Since the start of this year, poison-control centers across the country have reported 5,753 cases of children 5 years old and under being accidentally exposed to single-dose detergent packets made by companies including P&G, Henkel AG and others. That was close to the 6,231 cases reported for all of last year.

Some poison-center directors have cited the laundry packets' resemblance to candy as a factor in some accidents. In many cases, parents or caregivers left the detergent packets within reach of their children, who swallowed the detergent or got it in their eyes when thin films encasing the highly concentrated liquid burst.

Some of the injuries have been serious, causing symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, breathing difficulties and corneal abrasions. Some children had to be hospitalized for days and intubated to help them breathe. Until the Florida incident, however, none was known to have died.

The Florida incident was reported earlier by the Orlando Sentinel. It involved a baby boy and his mother, who were staying in a shelter for battered women, according to the article. The mother had placed detergent packets inside a laundry basket on a bed, stepped away and when she returned, found her son eating the detergent, the newspaper reported.

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