This article originally appeared on the American Institute for Economic Research website.
Some of the most defining internet challenges to go viral in the last few years were mainly fun, harmless, and even helped raise millions of dollars for charities like the ALS Foundation.
The latest internet challenge, however, is becoming popular with teenagers and poses serious health risks.
Called the “Tide Pod challenge,” videos of adolescents biting into the liquid detergent packets are being uploaded to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Some videos show them cooking the pods in frying pans, then chewing on them before they spit the soap out.
In 2016 and 2017, poison control centers handled 39 and 53 cases of intentional exposures to the detergent packages among 13-19-year-olds, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
During the first 15 days of 2018 alone, poison control centers have already handled 39 intentional cases among the same age demographic.
In response to the headlines about young people ingesting Tide Pods, Proctor and Gamble issued a public service announcement featuring New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski, discouraging people from using them for anything other than laundry.
YouTube is even removing the videos, citing its community guidelines that prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that have a risk of causing physical harm.
“Videos showing people participating in the Tide Pod challenge are removed from YouTube when flagged and the channel is given a strike for violating our Community Guidelines, which prohibit harmful or dangerous content,” the Google-owned company said.
According to public-hearing notes from 2013, Consumers Union and Consumer Reports urged the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to investigate Tide Pods and adopt stricter standards to ensure they do not harm children.
Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairman of the CPSC, told CBS News that the goal is to make laundry packets opaque, less colorful, and to reduce the toxicity and the strength of the detergent.
At what point will the government step in to ban detergent pods altogether?
It wouldn’t be the first time the government has passed nanny-state legislation that has unintended consequences.
For example, more and more cities are banning the production and use of plastic items like carry out bags, utensils, and drinking straws. In Seattle, where the plastics ban is in full effect, a resident has told his city council that regulations are cutting into the bottom line of his small business.
“For the last four to five years, something new is coming every time, and its cutting our bottom line.… We are decreasing our payroll. We are letting people go. We are giving people part-time jobs, not full time. The way things are happening, we will have to stand in our stores 24 hours.”
Local governments are even going as far as attempting to ban soda pop.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban the sale of “sugary drinks” larger than 16 ounces in 2013, which was struck down by the city council. Cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago have succeeded in taxing soda sales with the intention of reducing consumption.
In Philadelphia, however, the plan to fund schools, parks, and recreation centers backfired. Studies found that Philly residents still bought soda after the prohibitive tax was passed in 2017, but they were going outside city limits.
Although it’s obvious that eating laundry detergent, drinking way too much sugar, or consistently throwing away plastic isn’t good for you or the environment, it isn’t the job of the government to tell us what to do or how to live. We need more personal freedom and less government interference.