First, it was the “gallon challenge” and the “cinnamon challenge.”
Then some teenagers started playing the “bath-salt challenge.”
They have dared each other to pour salt in their hands and hold ice till it burns, douse themselves in rubbing alcohol and set themselves ablaze, and throw boiling water on unsuspecting peers.
Now videos circulating on social media are showing kids biting into brightly colored liquid laundry detergent packets. Or cooking them in frying pans, then chewing them up before spewing the soap from their mouths.
Experts say the game, dubbed the “Tide pod challenge,” is dangerous.
“A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how — why would I be willing to do that?” 19-year-old Marc Pagan, who said he was dared to do it, told CBS News this week. “No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?”
It’s not certain how the fad got started.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning to parents several years ago about the liquid laundry detergent packets. The agency said the capsules — which are colorful, squishy and smell good — are attractive to young children but contain “highly concentrated, toxic detergent” that can cause harm.
In 2015, the Onion published a satirical op-ed from the perspective of a toddler who wanted to eat them.
At some point, the pods became alluring to older children. Last year, College Humor published a video titled “Don’t Eat the Laundry Pods. (Seriously. They’re Poison.).” It showed a college student researching the dangers associated with exposure to the packets, then devouring them. He ended up on an ambulance stretcher.
One expert conceded that young children are inclined to explore but was surprised at the number of older children and teenagers who are putting the packets in their mouths.
Children who have been exposed to the capsules have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness. And the consequences may be much worse. Since 2012, eight fatalities have been reported among children 5 and younger, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.