A proposed class action claims Target’s representation that its Up & Up-brand kids’ and sports sunscreens are made with a “reef-conscious formula” is misleading in that the products contain chemicals known to be harmful to coral reefs and marine life.
Filed on October 8 against Target Corporation and Fruit of the Earth, Inc., the 43-page lawsuit alleges the companies have attempted to gain a competitive advantage in the sunscreen market by “falsely labeling” the Up & Up products as made with a “reef-conscious formula” despite being fully aware that they contain avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and/or octocrylene—ingredients that have had a “deleterious impact” on coral reefs.
According to the case, Target and Fruit of the Earth have taken advantage of consumers’ desire to protect coral reefs while “reaping the financial benefits” of using less expensive, harmful chemicals in their sunscreens.
“Defendant(s) has(ve) reaped millions of dollars through this fraudulent scheme based on a calculated business decision to put profits over people and the environment,” the suit scathes.
As a result, consumers have increasingly looked to purchase sunscreens advertised as “reef safe, “reef friendly” or “reef conscious,” with the expectation that the products’ ingredients will not harm coral reefs, the case relays. Target and Fruit of the Earth, looking to capitalize on this desire, have “deliberately led reasonable consumers” to believe that certain of their Up & Up kids’ and sports sunscreens are reef-safe and do not contain ingredients known to be harmful to reefs and marine life, according to the complaint. Per the suit, the “reef-conscious formula” claim is “prominently placed” on each product’s primary display panel, such that consumers’ attention is drawn to it.
Despite the defendants’ labeling claims, the Up & Up sunscreen products allegedly contain avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene as active ingredients, which, according to the suit, can have the following harmful effects on marine life:
Avobenzone – “degrades and causes damage to coral reefs and aquatic life” when exposed to ultraviolet light;
Octocrylene – produces a carcinogen and can cause DNA damage, developmental abnormalities, adverse reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, alteration of gene transcription and developmental toxicity in marine life, and trigger mitochondrial dysfunction in coral reefs;
Homosalate – can harm coral reefs and aquatic organisms by causing hormone and pesticide disruption;
Octisalate – has “similar harmful effects” and contributes to the bleaching of coral reefs.
According to the complaint, Target and Fruit of the Earth “intentionally and deliberately” used the reef-conscious representation on their sunscreens, including but not limited to the following products, in order to mislead and deceive consumers into buying them:
Up & Up Kids’ Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50, 5.5 oz, 7.3 oz and 9.1 oz
Up & Up Kids’ Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55, 0.47 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30, 3 oz and 10.4 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50, 10.4 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Spray, SPF 15, 9.1 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Spray, SPF 30, 2.2 oz, 5.5. oz, 7.3 oz and 9.1 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50, 5.5 oz, 7.3 oz and 9.1 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55, 0.47 oz and 1.5 oz
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm, SPF 50, 0.15 oz
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in the U.S. who, within the statute of limitations periods, purchased the Up & Up sunscreen products displaying the reef-conscious representation for purposes other than resale. A subclass has been proposed for California residents who purchased the products within the past four years for purposes other than resale.
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