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What You Need to Know About Settlements and PFAS Exposures : NPR

Thinx is a billboard shot in New York City in September 2021. The company has been accused of misleading consumers about the safety of menstrual underwear, but has denied all allegations and admitted no wrongdoing.

Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Thinx

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Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Thinx

Thinx is a billboard shot in New York City in September 2021. The company has been accused of misleading consumers about the safety of menstrual underwear, but has denied all allegations and admitted no wrongdoing.

Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Thinx

If you live in the US and recently purchased Thinx underwear, you may get your money back right away.

It settles a class action lawsuit against a brand of menstrual panties alleging it contains potentially harmful chemicals in a product long marketed as a safer and more sustainable approach to menstrual hygiene. Because I did

Plaintiffs say third-party inspection of the underwear revealed the presence of short chains. Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals found in many consumer and industrial products that do not break down easily and are associated with adverse health effects. And they have accused the company of fraud and other deceptive practices as a result.

“Through a unified, far-reaching national advertising campaign, [Thinx] Thinx underwear convinces consumers that it is a safe, healthy, sustainable choice for women and free of harmful chemicals. ” Filed in May 2022 Said. “In fact, sinks underwear contains harmful chemicals…which is a safety hazard for women’s bodies and the environment.”

Thinx denied those allegations, and a company spokesperson told NPR in an email that PFAS are not part of the product design and that it will continue to take steps to ensure the chemicals are not added to its products. increase.

“The lawsuit against Thinx has been resolved. The settlement does not constitute an admission of guilt or wrongdoing by Thinx and denies all allegations made in the lawsuit,” the spokesperson added.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York gave a settlement the provisional approval In December, more than two years after the lawsuit began (the lawsuit combines two existing lawsuits filed in Massachusetts and California).

Class members were notified of the settlement this week. As part of that, Thinx promised to pay up to $5 million to provide refunds and make some changes to its marketing and production processes.

Anyone who purchases Thinx underwear between November 12, 2016 and November 28, 2022 Submit your claim online By mid-April, you can choose to get a cash refund on up to 3 pairs of underwear at $7 per pair, or choose a coupon that saves 35% off up to $150 on a single purchase (up to $52.50 off).

Thinx will also take steps to ensure that PFAS are not intentionally added to underwear at any stage of production and will adjust some of its marketing language, including disclosing the use of antimicrobial treatments. We will also continue to require our suppliers to sign a code of conduct and consent form certifying that PFAS are not intentionally added to Thinx underwear.

Erin Rubenlawyer She, who represents several of the plaintiffs, said in a telephone interview with NPR that she and her client are happy with the terms of the settlement and that the case has brought awareness to the issue of PFAS in consumer products. said.

“When consumers demand transparency around these issues, I think companies have no choice but to listen,” Ruben added. As we become more conscious, I hope that we speak up to let companies know that’s not what they want.”

The lawsuit does not accuse the product of causing harm

Reuben stresses that the incident was about the way Thinx marketed its products, not potential health effects.

“The plaintiff in this case filed a claim because the underwear contained PFAS and other chemicals that would influence purchasing decisions,” she said. “This lawsuit centers on marketing issues and does not assert claims related to personal injury caused by the products.”

The lawsuit alleges that Thinx uses PFAS chemicals to “enhance the performance of underwear, including but not limited to ‘moisture-wicking’ and ‘leak-proof’ qualities.”

It explains that the thousands of PFAS chemicals that exist are all classified as either “long chain” or “short chain” based on whether they contain fewer or more than eight carbon atoms. .

Long-chain chemicals, sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” are known to cause adverse health effects and are being phased out in the United States, the lawsuit says, and short-chain It adds that chemicals are being used as substitutes in the apparel industry. .

That is despite the fact that there are no long-term studies to show whether they are safer for consumers, and there is even evidence that they pose similar health risks. Plaintiff also claims that it is inconsistent with the company’s own product advertising.

According to the complaint, Thinx says in multiple places on its website that its underwear is rigorously tested and free of harmful chemicals, and that the compounds used in its anti-odor layer “have Stay and travel in your body.”

However, those claims were repeatedly disputed (according to the lawsuit, they disappeared from the website around May 2021).

In 2020, reporter Jessica Choi sent several pairs of sinks underwear to a laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, where high levels of fluorine were found and it was concluded that the underwear contained PFAS. those findings article for Sierra (Sierra Club magazine).

Thinx’s CEO at the time, Maria Molland, released a statement after the article’s publication, reiterating the company’s stringent testing standards. It said it confirmed that “no long-chain PFAS chemicals were detected” (the lawsuit alleges that this statement misrepresented the test and results and further misled customers).

Plaintiff Nicole Dickens, who originally filed the complaint in New York, heard reports around November 2020 that Sinks’ underwear contained the chemical, court documents say. She stopped buying underwear and asked for independent, third-party testing. They found that “Thinx’s underwear contained more than trace amounts of short-chain PFAS chemicals.”

A growing body of research links PFAS exposure to health effects

PFAS have been used in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s, including non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, some fire-fighting foams, and certain cosmetics.

people can be exposed PFAS can be affected in a number of ways, including drinking contaminated water and eating food grown near where PFAS is used or packaged in materials containing them.

PFAS can enter the soil, water, and air during production and use and remain in the environment as these chemicals do not degrade.

“Because of their widespread use and environmental persistence, PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals worldwide and are present at low levels in a wide variety of foods and environments. People or animals that are repeatedly exposed over time.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Say.

Scientists are still working to understand the exact effects of PFAS exposure, but there is growing evidence linking it to adverse health outcomes.

According to the CDC, high levels of certain PFASs are linked to elevated cholesterol levels, altered liver enzymes, decreased birth weight in infants, increased risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer. Research suggests that it is possible. Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

CDC also admitted High-level exposures can affect the immune system by suppressing antibody responses to vaccines, which is of particular concern during the pandemic, as exposures can lead to disease caused by COVID-19. We are working to understand how it affects us.

If you have been exposed to PFAS and are concerned about your health, CDC suggests You’ll need to see a doctor or get a blood test, but warns, “It’s unclear what the results mean in terms of possible health effects.”

what happens next?

This is the timeframe in which consumers can learn about the settlement and decide whether to participate in the settlement, Reuben explains.

If you opt out of the settlement and want to pursue your case later, you can request a refund or remove yourself from the class.

The advantage of participating in a class action settlement is that there is no cost to the consumer. On the other hand, those who want to sue on an individual basis will need to hire a lawyer and go through the process again, Ruben said.

It’s not clear how many members the class has, but a May complaint said “at least a few thousand” could be affected nationwide.

Lawyers plan to ascertain how many have claimed under the settlement before a final approval hearing is scheduled for May 24, Ruben said.

Ruben is working on other cases related to PFAS in products and believes that will be an ongoing area of ​​practice.

“Consumers are telling us that they really care about these issues, so I don’t think we’re seeing any signs of a slowdown,” she adds.

https://www.npr.org/2023/01/19/1150023002/thinx-period-underwear-lawsuit-settlement What You Need to Know About Settlements and PFAS Exposures : NPR

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