A proposed class action claims Thinx Inc. menstrual underwear contains harmful chemicals despite being advertised as safe and organic.
According to the 89-page complaint, independent testing commissioned by the plaintiffs has revealed that the defendant’s menstrual underwear—including the Thinx Cotton Brief, Cotton Bikini, Cotton Thong, Sport, Hiphugger, Hi-Waist, Boyshort, French Cut, Cheeky, and Thong products—contain polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and silver nanoparticles, which the suit says are a safety hazard to the female body.
The lawsuit out of Massachusetts alleges Thinx has “knowingly and willfully concealed and misrepresented the true nature of Thinx Underwear” in order to sell more products at a premium price.
“Thinx’s misbranding is intentional, and it renders the Thinx Underwear worthless or less valuable,” the complaint scathes. “If Thinx had disclosed to Plaintiffs and putative Class Members that Thinx Underwear contained harmful chemicals, such as PFAS, Plaintiffs and putative Class Members would not have purchased Thinx Underwear or they would have paid less for the Thinx Underwear.”
The lawsuit explains that Thinx positioned itself from its initial launch in 2011 as “an honest and trustworthy brand” providing “safe, comfortable, and sustainable options for people with periods and bladder leaks.” Thinx represents on its website that its underwear products are free of harmful chemicals, “rigorously tested,” made from organic cotton and contain “non-migratory silver” particles that “stay on the surface of the underwear and don’t travel into your body,” according to the suit.
Despite the aforementioned representations, however, independent testing commissioned by the plaintiffs has allegedly revealed that Thinx underwear contains short-chain PFAS chemicals “at material and above trace amounts.” The case explains that PFAS, which are categorized as either “long-chain” or “short-chain,” are chemicals used to make textiles water repellant and stain resistant. While long-chain PFAS have been phased out of use in the U.S. due to their bioaccumulative properties—i.e., their propensity to build up in the human body over time—and association with cancer and other serious medical conditions, recent studies have shown that short-chain PFAS may also pose a hazard to human health, the suit alleges.
The case goes on to allege that although the defendant has claimed that Thinx products are treated with “non-migratory” Agion, an antimicrobial treatment that uses silver and copper nanoparticles to reduce odor in textiles, the metal particles are so small that they can “readily enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption.” According to the case, silver nanoparticles in particular present a health risk to the female body and have been associated with “ultrastructural changes to the vaginal mucosa, urethra and rectum, in addition to leading to migration of silver into the bloodstream.” Moreover, silver has been known to have adverse effects on beneficial vaginal bacteria, the suit adds.
The lawsuit claims “every published study of clothing containing nanosilver” has shown that the silver migrates and can be released into the human body or environment.
“Thus, Thinx’s representations that its Underwear does not contain harmful chemicals, toxic metals or engineered nanoparticles is inaccurate and misleading,” the complaint scathes.
The case further alleges that Thinx’s representations that its cotton underwear is organic are false. Because the products contain PFAS, they are ineligible for Global Organic Textile Standards’ certification, the suit attests. Nevertheless, the case says, Thinx touts a GOTS “Certificate of Compliance” issued to a company called “Ocean Lanka” as its own despite the fact that the certificate does not include Thinx’s name nor does it refer to the company’s finished products.
The lawsuit further claims that Thinx discloses on its website that the gusset, i.e., the innermost layer, of its “organic” cotton underwear is not made with organic cotton, contrary to the company’s representations and consumers’ expectations. In sum, the case alleges Thinx does not hold any organic certifications, conform to industry standards for organic clothing, or use exclusively organic cotton in its products.
The case claims Thinx first came under scrutiny in January 2020, when a journalist published an article in Sierra magazine in which she wrote that she had sent pairs of Thinx underwear to be tested by a nuclear scientist at the University of Notre Dame, who opined that the products likely contained high levels of PFAS. In response to the allegations, Thinx CEO Maria Molland released a February 2020 statement assuring customers that third-party testing had revealed “no detectable long-chain PFAS chemicals” in Thinx underwear, the suit says.
The lawsuit alleges, however, that the company’s statement was “designed to further mislead and confuse customers” by misrepresenting the nature of the testing and reporting “incomplete or otherwise inaccurate” results. According to the suit, the third-party testing only checked for long-chain PFAS, not short-chain PFAS, and only “an extremely limited range of chemicals.” Moreover, the test results allegedly contained discrepancies, which suggests they are “inauthentic, incomplete, and/or fraudulent, and intended to mislead consumers,” the suit says. According to the case, the defendant released test results for only “a fraction of its products.”
Finally, the lawsuit claims that Bureau Veritas, the third-party lab the defendant employed to test its products, does not offer PFAS testing and that Thinx, despite claiming to be independently certified by OEKO-TEX, does not currently hold an OEKO-TEX certification.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiffs relied on the defendant’s representations when deciding to purchase Thinx underwear and would not have purchased the products, or would have paid less for them, had they known the underwear contained PFAS and harmful antimicrobials and was not wholly made from organic cotton.
The plaintiffs look to represent anyone in Massachusetts who purchased Thinx underwear during the maximum period permitted by law.
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