Wet Wipe Lawsuits | Flushable Wipes? August 22, 2015 12:01
Wipe manufacturers are facing wet wipe lawsuits and other increasing legal and regulatory pressures from several directions.
Whether it is here at our blog, our Google+ Page, our Facebook Page or Twitter feed, we write a lot about the problems associated with conventional common bathroom wet wipes. After all, we are out to address these problems and find a better approach to bathroom personal care hygiene. We believe we are well on our way with Fanny Clean, Etiquette's effective organic-based toilet paper moistener that can put an end to wet wipe lawsuits.
This post reviews the legal scrutiny wet wipes are currently facing including the various wet wipe lawsuits filed by individuals, groups and municipalities against wet wipe manufacturers.
Many plumbing related issues, big and small, have brought media and legal attention to the potential sewage-related and environmental problems caused by flushable wipes.
Wet wipe lawsuits - class action
As a result of alleged misrepresentation, false advertising, and plumbing and sewer damage caused by flushable wet wipes, people are pursuing flushable wipe class action lawsuits.
A New York City doctor has filed a federal class-action wet wipe lawsuit against the makers of "flushable" wipes. The crux of his lawsuit lies in the definition of the word "flushable." Just because an item will go down the pipe when the toilet is flushed does not mean it was meant to be flushed away. For example, see this list of crazy things people flushed down the toilet including: automotive parts, bones and books. These items are "flushable," but should not have been flushed down the toilet, right?
The doctor is claiming that so-called flushable wet wipes were responsible for clogging the pipes in his home and causing costly major plumbing problems.
One of the contentions of the his wet wipe lawsuit is that there are no legal requirements that a wet wipe product must meet in order to claim that it is “flushable.” There are voluntary guidelines may be followed at the discretion of wipe manufacturers.
In part, his wet wipe lawsuit states, “The defendants should have known that their representations regarding flushable wipes were false and misleading.”
Dr. Kurtz is the Brooklyn, NY physician who is making this case against wet wipe manufacturers, Kimberly-Clark and Costco. He is seeking damages of at least $5 million.
His lawsuit was filed on Feb. 21, 2015 in the Eastern District of New York. It represents over 100 property owners who experienced plumbing problems after using flushable wipes claiming that consumers around the country have suffered form clogged pipes, flooding, jammed sewers and problems with septic tanks due to the use of flushable wipes.
And another one...
A California consumer has also filed a class action flushable wet wipe lawsuit against Kimberly Clark, the manufacturer of Cottonelle Fresh Care personal wipes.
Her wet wipe lawsuit alleges that the company markets their product as safe to flush, when the wipes are, in fact, not really "flushable." She seeks to represent herself and a Class of consumers who paid a premium to buy their flushable wipes and who may have experienced plumbing problems as a result of that purchase.
And HERE is a .pdf of an actual class-action complaint filed by a Florida couple.
Consumers who experienced plumbing problems after using “flushable” toilet wipes from brands including Kleenex, Cottonelle, Charmin, and Wet Ones may apply legal pressure. Many of the wipes manufactured by these companies are marketed as “flushable,” suggesting they will break up in water the same way toilet paper does; however, consumers and sewage officials nationwide have complained that these wipes are actually not flushable, and are actually clogging pipes and causing extensive problems for septic systems.
Attorneys are currently investigating whether the manufacturers of these flushable wipes may be held responsible for misleading consumers into believing these wipes are flushable.
Allegations - It is believed that "flushable" wipes may not break up in water, despite being labeled as biodegradable and sewer and septic safe.
Problems - Clogged pipes, septic backups, low water pressure and high utility costs.
Vulnerable Manufacturers? - Kleenex Cottonelle, Charmin, Wet Ones, Equate, Kirkland and others.
What Can a Claimant Collect? - Those who used flushable wipes may be able to seek compensation for plumbing services and any other household damages from clogged pipes.
Canada and the United States are moving toward more regulation of the marketing of “flushable” wipes and setting more formalized industry standards for these products in an effort to avoid sewer, wastewater and plumbing problems and to have some basis for legal action should wet wipe manufacturers not comply.
Wastewater experts are working with International Standards Organizations to outline and enforce flushable wipe standards. Best flushability tests are being improved and formalized to establish standard characteristics for wet wipes marketed as sewer and septic safe.
Canada is leading the way in regulating the marketing and sale of flushable wipes to better improve waste management. The United States is also addressing the issue by bringing the threat of wet wipe lawsuits and legal action through false advertising litigation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been investigating baby wipe and adult hygienic wipe manufacturers’ claims of their products’ flushability.
In addition to the strain being placed on the sewage treatment infrastructure of a municipality, wet wipes can be a source of environmental problems outside of the facility. Cambridge, MN experienced having 20,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into a local river allegedly caused by personal hygiene wipes (marketed as flushable) backing up the wastewater treatment facility.
Wet Wipes are Big Bucks
Wet wipe manufacturers earn billions in the sale of their so-called flushable and non-flushable wet wipes with steadily increasing profit margins. The ever-increasing popularity of these wet wipe or personal wipe products lies in their versatility, from cleaning dirty baby bottoms to adult personal hygiene.
While flushable wipes are sold at higher prices because of their supposed safe toilet disposal, as you now know, consumers allege many so-called flushable wipes do not immediately disintegrate after they are flushed.
According to a published 2013 report, four distinct flushable wipe brands were tested for flushability by putting each in a special mixer. It took more than 10 minutes on average to break down the various flushable wipes into smaller pieces.
Since this strong churning is not produced by the average toilet, this study allegedly demonstrates the lack of flushability in these personal wipe products. We have previously posted on the wet wipes testing done by Consumer Reports.
The tests were designed to see if the wipes broke up in water and were sewer and septic safe, as they claimed on the label. When the wipes were immersed in water for 10 minutes, they showed no signs of breaking apart. Traditional toilet paper, which was put through the same test, broke up and dissolved very quickly.
In another test, wastewater treatment employees in Vancouver, Washington dyed Kirkland flushable wipes bright colors and let them flow through the city’s sewage system for about one mile. When they checked the sewage route further down the line, the brightly-dyed wipes had not disintegrated and were blocking sewage pumps.
For more problems facing city and municipal sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants see "A Natural Alternative to Wet Wipe Sewer & Environmental Problems."
Flushable Wipes Can Cost Home Owners Big Plumbing Bills
Consumers have reported several issues with their plumbing after using flushable wipes, including:
- low water pressure
- high utility rates
- clogged pipes
- septic backups
- septic system failure
Often times, the word ‘flushable’ means the wipes will not clog your toilet after you flush it, but when they get to the sewage treatment plant, the wipes get caught up in the equipment. This usually requires cleaning the wipes off of the equipment by hand. Yes, grabbing at matted-up wet wipes to release them from the equipment, yikes.
As you can imagine, New York City (NYC) has been especially hard hit by the downside of wet wipes. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection has spent millions of dollars to have workers remove wet wipes by hand from wastewater treatment machinery.
Many officials recommend people not flush these wipes and instead throw them out in the garbage can. Ya, right...who is going to do that?
Wet wipe makers stand by their claims...
Since the wipes market is worth billions of dollars annually, manufacturers are not going to take this problem lying down. Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Cottonelle wipes, says they have done extensive testing to ensure that their flushable wipes meet or exceed all industry guidelines and they stand behind their "flushability claim."
Wet wipe trade group representatives state that a majority of the sewer issues occur because people are flushing wipes that were not meant to be flushed down the toilet in the first place.
Others are recommending a simple “no-flush” logo be displayed prominently on the top or front of wet wipe packaging. A logo has been developed by the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) for voluntary use.
They believe if the logo is printed large enough - and in the right location on the packaging - it may help, but people are still left with the decision of what to do with the non-flushable wipe after it has been used. When someone is on the toilet, what do you think they are going to do with it?
If you believe your plumbing system has been damaged from using so-called flushable wipes, there are legal sites online for information regarding potential legal recourse; perhaps you can avoid a wet wipe lawsuit. These sites claim, "You may be entitled to compensation."
Some familiar brand flushable wipe products that may be named in various wet wipe lawsuits may include:
- Up & Up flushable wipes by Target
- Kandoo flushable wipes by Pampers
- Charmin Freshmates
- Cottonelle flushable wipes
- Wet Ones flushable wipes
- Equate flushable wipes by Wal-Mart
- Walgreens flushable wipes
- Total Home flushable wipes by CVS
- Scott flushable wipes
Despite these concerted legal efforts by both American and Canadian individuals and other entities, we wonder if flushable wipe producers will be held accountable for their product marketing. It seems these companies are "too big to flush."
Using a moist or wet wipe provides the best bathroom hygiene
According to consumer research by Kimberly-Clark, which makes Cottonelle Fresh Care wipes, 54% of users of moist toilet paper wipes, keep the product hidden from view, most often under the bathroom sink. And who can blame them? Who wants a bulky plastic tub sitting in out in plain view like you see on a baby's changing table?
Etiquette's Fanny Clean is a neat lttle toilet paper moistener that one is not ashamed to have on hand. Why should a wet or moist wipe be more out of reach than your toilet paper? After all, most people use dry toilet paper and a moistened toilet paper wipe for best personal care hygiene.
Many of our customers use moistened toilet paper along with dry for best bathroom hygiene, and it's very convenient to do so when your hygiene cleansing product is dispensed near your toilet paper - the two are a natural match.
Etiquette's efforts to encourage consumers not to be afraid to display their source of toilet paper moisture for an alternative wet or moist wipe in bathrooms should encourage others to adopt this approach as well. Keep a bottle of Fanny Clean near your toilet.
Consumers who begin using a wet or moist wipe for best bathroom hygiene tend to continue to use this method realizing that it is superior.
Good hygiene, in addition to being healthy, is all about being polite. And you know what? Polite is sexy...Wipe. Flush. Flaunt. :-)