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Tide Pod Challenge: Why teens and internet celebs risk their lives by eating them

A new internet trend has parents worrying more about their teenagers ingesting laundry soap than their unknowing toddlers.

It started as a joke: memes circulating on the web, poking fun at the fact that the squishy, brightly colored laundry pods look strangely appetizing.

Some commented they looked like giant Gusher gummies, but, you know, instead of a sugary sweet filling they contain toxic soap.

So that’s why, to some, it was funny to see Tide Pods in pans on stove tops, Tide Pods in cereal bowls, Tide Pods served like pasta with a garnish on the side.

The juxtaposition, the fact you’re obviously not supposed to eat them because they could make you very ill, or die, is what made the images popular.

Then people started eating them as an internet dare. Now, they won’t stop — probably because it’s turned into an almost sure-fire way to get comments, likes, follows and views.

"Okay, I’m not really quite sure how to eat this," says YouTube personality Matthew Lush while holding one of the pods in a video posted on Dec. 31. "So I’m just going to salt it a little bit."

Yes, he really salts it. Yes, he really bites into it. You hear a "pop" as his teeth puncture the pod’s plastic sack. The soap oozes down his face. He expresses instant regret

He spits it out, screams.

"Nooooo," he squeals.

He’s racked up more than 150,000 views. A week later, Lush, who has nearly 1 million subscribers, posted a satire video cooking with Tide Pods. He made tacos.

Most the jokes surrounding the craze are self-aware. No one actually thinks Tide Pods taste good or are safe to consume. Yet the videos keep rolling in as teens and social media personalities vie to outdo each other.

Another video from a YouTuber, reacting to Lush eating the soapy pod, posted on Thursday already had nearly 400,000 views by Friday morning.

Since launching in 2012, Tide has told parents to keep the attractive pods, which can candies, out of reach of children.

In August, the company came out with a new child-resistant tub with secure lids to go along with the safety seal on pouches released the year before.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the families who use our products," said Sundar Raman, North America Vice President of Fabric Care for P&G, in an August news release.

The pods are meant to be convenient — they’re an easy alternative for anyone used to lugging detergent jugs to the laundromat.

The National Capital Poison Center has an entire webpage dedicated to how harmful ingesting the pods can be.

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, a clinical toxicologist, wrote on the webpage that many of the children who have bitten into the pods have wound up in intensive care units.

Floridians should know of the dangers all too well. In 2013, a 7-month-old boy in Kissimmee died after ingesting an All brand detergent pod.

"Serious effects can occur quickly. They include severe vomiting, severe breathing trouble, burns to the esophagus, and coma," Soloway wrote. "The liquid from laundry pods also can cause burns to the eye and skin."

Tide has several videos and articles about keeping the pods out of reach of children. But none about keeping them out of the mouths of very aware teens and young adults who obviously know better.

"Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes and they’re used safely in millions of households every day," Tide said in a statement. "They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up, closed and away from children. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if it is meant as a joke."

So, keep them out of your mouths, would ya?

Also, the Poison Control hotline is 1-800-222-1222.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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