TAMPA, Fla. - The Tide Pod Challenge is a social media sensation that has young people dangerously biting into the laundry detergent pods, thus poisoning themselves.
Some retailers are taking security steps that might end up saving those taking part in the challenge as they try to reduce the number of people shoplifting the pricey pods.
“It's just people being, stupid, and misusing products,” said Taylor Alexander while shopping at a Tampa Walmart.
The store where Alexander shops has attached anti-theft devices on several of the pod containers. There are also signs on the detergent aisle warning customers the area is being monitored.
Video cameras are also mounted nearby.
In some parts of the country, the pods are under lock and key, putting laundry detergent in the same category as other protected products.
“Alcohol, certain medicines, we just bought medicine that we had to share ideas for. That's reasonable. Laundry detergent, no,” said Walmart customer Gina Trina.
Still, other customers say you can't blame retailers for the inconvenience.
Mike Weimer hadn't heard about the challenge, and shook his head when he found out why his retail store had placed security devices on the detergent pods.
“You know, I guess they are driven to do that, you know? By people acting inappropriately,” he said.
Walgreen Stores, another big retailer, says they've done the same thing at selected locations for years. But, company spokesperson James Graham says the detergent deterrents are, "unrelated to more recent reports of misuse of the products."
Dr. Fred Aleguas, who runs the Tampa Poison Control Center, says the pods were already dangerous, but that “challenge” has sent the number of poison cases soaring.
Whether it’s anti-theft or anti-poisoning driving their decision to secure the pods, Aleguas says it’s a welcomed development. And the bigger the retailer, the better.
“I think it's a good idea, in light of the fact that we've had such a significant increase,” he said.
Aleguas says in the first 11 days of this year, the number of teenagers across the U.S. - between 13 and 19 who'd reported exposure to the poisonous pods - was 40. Ten days later, that number had already more than tripled to 124.
“It used to be a punishment to get soap put in your mouth,” said Watkins, “And now people are doing it for fun. Who wants to eat soap?”
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