YouTube said Wednesday that it is taking down any videos of the "Tide Pod Challenge," a viral stunt that has people eating the potentially toxic packets of laundry detergent.
"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," YouTube said in a statement. The company considers removing videos when users flag them, and people whose videos are removed risk their entire channel being deleted if they have accrued too many "strikes."
Procter & Gamble, Tide's parent company, said in a statement, "We have been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies. Laundry pacs are made to clean clothes."
Why did this become a thing? It started as a joke on the internet. The Onion published a satirical story in 2015 titled "So Help Me God, I'm Going To Eat One Of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods." In March 2017, College Humor published a satirical video about eating the pods. People kept talking about eating them. Then people started filming themselves eating the pods and uploading the videos for a stunt called the "Tide Pod Challenge."
According to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), centers across the country handled 39 cases of people intentionally ingesting laundry detergent in 2016 among people aged thirteen to nineteen, 53 cases in 2017, and 39 in the first two weeks of 2018 alone.
"We have seen a large spike in single-load laundry packet exposures among teenagers since these videos have been uploaded," Stephen Kaminski, the AAPCC’s CEO, said in a statement.
The AAPCC said it has fielded 50,000 calls about misuse of the pods in the past five years, but the majority of those calls concerned children under 5.
Some videos now titled "Tide Pod Challenge" show people pretending to almost eat the laundry pods but then decrying the challenge. YouTube didn't comment on how it would differentiate between the two types of videos.
Procter & Gamble launched an advertising campaign against eating the detergent packages last week.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has also attempted to curb the behavior. It tweeted a picture emblazoned with "Human people united against eating laundry pods."
You, dear reader, should not eat them.
Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
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