It’s 2018. As a species, we are more advanced than ever before. We can excavate the remains of colossal volcanoes using robotic submarines. We can walk on the surface of other worlds, and push rare diseases into extinction – and yet, certain people still believe the Earth is flat or that eating laundry detergent tablets is a good idea.
The latter, admittedly, is a recent development.
The Onion, a satirical news site, posted an op-ed back in 2015 by a “toddler” wherein he explained his single-minded determination to ingest a multicolored detergent pod. This piece likely didn’t start the latest trend, but it’s worrying to think that 2018 is the year where the line between surreal parodies and satire can’t be distinguished from reality.
A typical video shows a person with not enough sense and too much bravado placing a Tide Pod, or a similar brand laundry detergent pod, on their tongue or in their mouths. Within moments, it begins to dissolve in their mouths, and they are seen choking, coughing, or vomiting. Naturally, this “challenge” even has a hashtag.
This is both stupid and dangerous. Although no-one has yet died from this challenge, it’s absolutely possible. Those with dementia, and several toddlers, have eaten these pods in recent times and have subsequently perished; tens of thousands more have been made incredibly sick.
If you still think this is just a bit of fun and you’re about to do the challenge yourself, then don’t. This is what could happen to you if you put one of those technicolor tabs in your mouth – and what happens if you ingest any of it.
Foaming Bellies, Aching Bowels
The purpose of detergent – in case you were oddly unaware of this – is to break up components of the waste that’s clinging so frustratingly to your crockery or, as it so happens, your hair. Composed of a mixture of synthetic chemicals, their most important ingredients are surfactants.
Surfactants are long chain molecules, with a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and a hydrophobic (water-hating) tail, the latter of which goes for grease instead. When you dissolve these surfactants into water they form “supermolecules.”