Ingestions of household soaps and detergent products account for 4% of all cases reported to the National Clearinghouse for Poison Control Centers. One death has been reported. Although these preparations have a low order of toxicity, their misuse may cause serious consequences.
For the purpose of this discussion, the term "detergent" will designate household synthetic detergent preparations. "Surfactant" will refer to the synthetic surface-active agents which are basic ingredients of these preparations.
Types of Household Soaps and Detergents
Toilet Bars.—These include all bars ordinarily found on the washstand and used in shower or tub. Some are made entirely from soap (salts of fatty acids), while others contain synthetic surface-active agents alone or in combination with soap.1 When ingested in sufficient quantity, soap may cause gastrointestinal irritation, and vomiting and diarrhea may ensue. Treatment includes administration of demulcents (e.g., milk) and symptomatic measures for diarrhea, should it occur. Because