YouTube has said it is deleting any videos showing the Tide Pod challenge in an effort to stem the dangerous detergent-eating craze among US teens.
The potentially health-damaging fad has seen teenagers daring each other to film themselves biting into washing machine capsules and then upload the results online, with some videos garnering hundreds of thousands of views.
The trend has provoked warnings from health bodies in America, who say ingesting the capsules could have “serious health implications”, and has also prompted an awareness campaign featuring an NFL star.
Today YouTube said it was working to quickly remove Tide Pod videos as they encouraged dangerous behaviour with an “inherent risk of physical harm”.
A spokesman for YouTube said: “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that's intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm. We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”
Accounts that have a video deleted also face having a temporary strike placed against them that can disable some of the channel’s features, such as monetisation.
YouTube channels that get three strikes against them in a three-month period are terminated from the platform.
Parents have long been warned of the health risks detergent pods can pose to small children, who are attracted to the colourful capsules.
In 2013 the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning saying: “Young children who are exposed to the highly concentrated, toxic detergent are at risk of serious injury.”
The commission said that children who had ingested detergent needed hospital attention for adverse effects such as loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing.
The first mentions of the “Tide Pod challenge” on YouTube date back to 2014. Then in 2015 the satirical site, The Onion, published a spoof op-ed from a toddler describing his determination to eat the colourful detergent pods.
The fad of teens daring each other to bite into the pods came to the fore last year after a number of high-profile videos. The trend has spawned its own internet culture, with teenagers posting memes of fake adverts for the pods being marketed as food.
A video by CollegeHumor titled ‘Don't Eat the Laundry Pods’ posted in March 2017 has been viewed more than three million times.
The craze has prompted the owners of Tide, Procter & Gamble, to launch an awareness campaign deterring teenagers from eating the pods.
NFL star, Rob Gronkowski, of the New England Patriots, is featured in one of the videos saying: “What the heck is going on people? Use Tide Pods for washing, not eating.”
One teenager who fell foul of the craze was Marc Pagan, 19, who said he did it as he was dared.
He told CBS News: “A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how – why would I be willing to do that?
“No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?”
However the trend has continued to grow over 2017 and 2018. The American Association of Poison Control Centers said there were 39 recorded cases of 13 to 19-year-olds intentionally exposing themselves to single-load laundry tablets in 2016 and 53 cases in 2017.
The association said it had already recorded 39 cases in the first 15 days of 2018 alone.
Stephen Kaminski, the AAPCC’s CEO, said: “The ‘laundry packet challenge’ is neither funny nor without serious health implications.
“The intentional misuse of these products poses a real threat to the health of individuals. We have seen a large spike in single-load laundry packet exposures among teenagers since these videos have been uploaded.”