Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Eyes and detergent capsules

Do not assume strong alkalinity

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 04 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2399
  1. Philip Malpass, director general1
  1. 1UK Cleaning Products Industry Association, Century House, Tattenhall, Cheshire CH3 9RJ
  1. philip.malpass{at}

    The cleaning products industry takes concerns about its products seriously and fully supports Mathew and colleagues’ call for greater consumer awareness in their letter about paediatric eye injuries from exposure to liquid detergent capsules.1 Parents also have an important role in following guidance for the safe use of detergent products, including safe storage at all times.

    Liquid detergent sachets have been on the market for nearly 10 years. During this time an estimated 6 billion have been used, and currently 850 million are used yearly in the UK.

    Manufacturers have made labelling more prominent, labels clearly stating:

    • Keep out of reach of children

    • Avoid contact with eyes

    • In the event of contact with eyes immediately rinse with plenty of water.

    However, Mathew and colleagues incorrectly state that the contents of the capsule are “dissolved in water to give an alkaline solution, making the capsule more dangerous than initially perceived.”1 Strong alkalinity and its damage to eyes is accepted, but medical practitioners should not automatically assume strong alkalinity with liquid detergent capsules. In fact, they have a pH of 8—that is, are essentially neutral—and cause no irreversible effect.

    Mathew and colleagues cite 13 eye injuries, 12 of which “resolved with no complications”; the 13th child did not have irrigation until arrival at hospital but recovery even in this case should have been complete. This is consistent with our assessment that any such eye incidents are fully recoverable.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2399


    • Competing interests: None declared.


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