Tide Pod Challenge: YouTube Washes Its Hands of Dangerous Meme by Removing Videos

Tide detergent pods Gary Cameron/Reuters

YouTube announced Wednesday that it will be removing videos of the Tide Pod Challenge, a meme in which people film themselves placing the colorful packets of detergent in their mouths, BuzzFeed News reports.

"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 wrote in a statement published by BuzzFeed News. Along those guidelines, YouTube will reportedly remove any videos of people performing the stunt.

What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else.

Eating a Tide POD is a BAD IDEA, and we asked our friend @robgronkowski to help explain. pic.twitter.com/0JnFdhnsWZ

— Tide (@tide) January 12, 2018

The "challenge" has gained steam along with the meme of people posting pictures of food made with Tide pods. According to The Huffington Post, the meme of people treating the detergent as food goes back at least as far as 2013. In 2015, the satire website The Onion published an article headlined "So Help Me God, I'm Going To Eat One Of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods." As BuzzFeed News notes, in the spring of 2017 the website College Humor posted an attempt to eat the pods.

As to why it's so harmful to ingest laundry detergent, "it might seem obvious," reporter Anna Werner said on CBS News, who noted that the pods contain ethanol and hydrogen peroxide. "It's a highly toxic and poisonous mix of detergent meant to wipe out dirt and grime," she said.

Still, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has noted an increase in calls (39 cases in 2016 and 53 in 2017) due to "exposures" to laundry detergent packets like Tide pods in the past two years among 13-to-19 year olds, some of which involved people eating the pods. In the past, the group has mostly documented cases of children accidentally eating them. "In the first 15 days of 2018 alone, centers have already handled 39 such intentional cases among the same age demographic. Ingestion accounted for ninety-one percent of these reported exposures," The American Association of Poison Control Center's Stephen Kaminski said in a statement.

"The intentional misuse of these products poses a real threat to the health of individuals. We have seen a large spike in single-load laundry packet exposures among teenagers since those videos have been uploaded."