An underwear lawsuit, explained

Thinx marketed itself as a sustainable solution to menstruation, but plaintiffs say the underwear contains potentially harmful chemicals.

Think you know what’s in your underwear? Thinx again.

Thinx — an absorbent underwear brand for menstruation or incontinence acquired by Kimberly-Clark in 2022 — markets itself as a safer, more sustainable alternative to disposable pads and tampons.

But plaintiffs in a 2022 class-action lawsuit claim third-party testing uncovered short chain per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), per NPR.

P-what now?

PFAS are synthetic chemicals used in products like nonstick cookware, water-repellent fabrics, cosmetics, and more, per the CDC.

They’ve been phased out in the US due to health and environmental concerns:

  • They can contaminate soil, water, and air, and don’t break down.
  • They can build up in people and animals.
  • Research is ongoing, but studies have suggested a link to harmful health effects, including cancer and vaccine efficacy.

Thinx denies the lawsuit’s findings…

… but agreed last week to change its marketing language and some production practices, plus pay $5m to reimburse some customers.

Interestingly: The lawsuit follows a 2020 Sierra magazine report in which columnist Jessian Choy sent several pairs to a nuclear scientist for testing, who also found PFAS; then-CEO Maria Molland denied those findings.

A key issue? Marketing

The lawsuit doesn’t assert that Thinx caused anyone harm, just that its marketing was misleading.

People often pay a premium or make purchase choices based on claims that products are “sustainable,” “natural,” or “organic.”

A lawsuit filed last week against Coca-Cola’s Simply Orange Juice alleges its marketing “is designed to drive sales and increase profits by targeting health-conscious consumers” — despite containing high levels of PFAS.

BTW: Five EU nations — the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway — proposed banning the use and production of PFAS earlier this month.

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