Costco sued for toxic chemicals in its baby wipes

Costco faces a class action lawsuit over PFAS chemicals in its Kirkland baby wipes - Photo by Grant Beirute on UnSplash

Can cause developmental issues in children

Costco can’t be beat for several of its own Kirkland brand items – like its best-selling Organic No-Salt Seasoning, Three Berry Blend, and Italian-Style Beef Meatballs – but the company’s Kirkland baby wipes has landed it in a potentially ugly class action lawsuit.

Larisa Bullard and Mila Corrigan filed a class action lawsuit against Costco Wholesale Corp. and Nice-Pak Products Inc., the manufacturer of the wipes, claiming Costco marketed and sold Kirkland-branded fragrance free baby wipes containing unsafe levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

Also known as “forever chemicals,” the FDA recently decided that the problem was serious enough that it is going to put an end to those chemicals being used. Apparently, Costco and Nice-Pak didn’t pick up on that quick enough.

“Direct PFAS exposure to infants and babies from defendant’s wipes pose a health risk, the likes of which plaintiffs and class members sought to avoid by purchasing defendant’s plant-based, natural-material, toxin-free products for their babies,” the complaint says. 

According to Bullard and Corrigan, their counsel investigated Kirkland baby wipes independently through a U.S. Department of Defense laboratory and found unsafe levels of PFAS.

“Defendants market the product as conferring certain health, safety and use benefits, when testing demonstrates that the product actually contains significant levels of unsafe, toxic PFAS chemicals,” the Costco class action says. 

What the plaintiffs want a jury to decide

Bullard and Corrigan claim Costco and Nice-Pak Products Inc. are guilty of a lot. There’s reckless misrepresentation, deceptive concealment or omission, fraud, undue enrichment and breach of express warranty. Plus, the suit claims the two companies violated both New York General Business Law and California’s False Advertising Law, Consumers Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law. 

The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and request declaratory and injunctive relief. But, as class action suits go, they are also seeking an award of compensatory, statutory and punitive damages not only for themselves but for every consumer who signs up as a class member. 

ConsumerAffairs reached out to Costco for its side of the story, but did not get an immediate response.

Moms are already reacting

Moms who’ve been happy Costco baby wipe users are taking to the internet to voice their concerns.

“Oh no! These have been my favorite wipes” wrote one mom on WhatToExpect.

“They were great and affordable. But these are used for babies' sensitive areas. I just ordered Honest brand wipes on Amazon,” said another.

MajinMary said, “Just saw the lawsuit, will be returning my unused portion of the box and already bought some Attitude wipes on Amazon to be delivered today. it's not worth it to use on baby's sensitive areas.”

“I haven’t used their baby products in sooo long because every box of diapers I would get just reeked of chemicals,” chimed in another, “but I was out of wipes and already at Costco less than a month ago so of course I bought a box to save me a trip. I usually don’t take lawsuits too seriously until they’re recalled but I’ll likely return them tomorrow. I usually use Target brand up and up, they’re way more affordable and super soft!

What’s so scary about PFAS?

Chemicals such as PFAS are not readily degradable in the environment and, downhill, PFAS can wind up in everything from our water sources to non-stick cookware and even dental floss. This is because these chemicals were specially designed to help repel things like water and grease, which is why they have been found in items like mascara and non-stick pans.

Writing in GreenMatters, Lauren Wellbank said that researchers have discovered that the convenience of these chemicals has come at a price – the biggest one being concerning health conditions like cancer and thyroid dysfunction. 

“That makes the news that they've been discovered in baby  wipes, especially concerning when you consider that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has noted that these chemicals can also cause developmental delays in children, early puberty, behavioral changes, and more,” Wellbank said.

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