My New York friend Larry was nearly out of breath on the phone.

“Jensen! You gotta do this story on your show!”

At this point, you know it’s a good idea to get comfy at the desk.

“So you know all those kids who are dying from eating those laundry pods on YouTube?”

“How many?”

“I dunno. Hundreds or more.”

I start to Google some reputable sources on this while Larry launches into his monologue, expelling more energy that Elon Musk’s big heavy rocket.

“So here in New Yawk they’re gonna ban them like cigarettes. We got two lawmakers already making laws that’ll tell the Tide guys they can’t make their pods colorful anymore... they gotta be ugly so kids don’t think they’re candy. Ain’t that great?”

I began to wonder how many more Americans are panicky over this.

“Larry?” I ask, trying hard to sound interested and not exacerbated or condescending, which New Yorkers can spot within a single vowel and verbally shred you over within seconds.

“I just looked up laundry pods and found something from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They say two children have died ingesting these pods.”

“It’s the Tide pod challenge! It’s all over YouTube! Kids are dropping all over the place from this epidemic,” Larry yelled.

“Larry,” I pleaded,” According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows there were only 53 cases of intentional misuse of the laundry packets reported among teenagers.” 

“Hundreds are not dying. Sadly, two have died. Out of thousands of calls, only a few hundred were serious,” I added. “It’s not an epidemic.”

Larry was having none of any reason: “They look like candy! Mom puts ‘em in the laundry room and the kid thinks it’s a big, fluffy candy! That’s what they said on Good Morning America and everyone believes them, right?”

“I can’t even believe I have to say this right now,” said Good Morning America’s, Diane Macedo. “They are brightly colored and they’re very nicely wrapped, but these Tide pods are not candy or pizza toppings or breakfast cereal — they are not edible.”

A majority of laundry pod phone calls to poison centers have, indeed, involved children under five. That’s phone calls, not emergency room visits.

The challenge is what some older kids are doing.

These are stupid kids daring each other to do something stupid, sending their parents into panic while whisking the stupid kid to the emergency room for a spot of stomach-pumping.

I read from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s report to Larry:

“According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were more than 12,299 reported exposures to highly concentrated laundry detergent pods in 2017. Most reports involved children ages 5 and under. That’s down 14 percent since 2015, when the centers answered more than 14,000 calls.

In 2016, the control centers received more than 13,000 reports, but only about 700 resulted in, “moderate” or, “major” risk to the individual’s health.”

“What about little kids???!!!” Larry slobbered.

“Yup. Most of the calls were for kids under five, meaning parents need to put the stuff up high on a shelf or install kid-proof latches on storage doors,” I said. “But the Washington Post reports the numbers of calls is about the same for other dangerous exposures, too.”

“So my guys here in New Yawk are doing the right thing,” Larry says.

It seemed to me it would be, “If forcing a company to make their legal product noncompetitive and perhaps ineffective is the right thing. Why not just print a warning to store them high or in a child-proof cabinet? That way only the stupid teenagers can get it.”

“They’re proposing a law that says the pods have to be ugly and not attractive to kids. The pods have to be “bite proof” and stronger, in some kind of child-proof packaging,” says Larry.

“It sort-of defeats the purpose if the pods don’t dissolve easily, doesn’t it?” I asked.

“I dunno,” confesses Larry. “I take all my clothes to the dry cleaners down the street.”

I chose not to say anything to Larry about dry cleaning solvents and brownfields.

Rick Jensen is an annoying, award-winning Delaware talk show host and equally annoying national columnist. Email Rick@DBCMedia.com.