By ADAM KLASFELD
MANHATTAN (CN) – Marketed in a soft-green font and tree imagery, Huggies “pure & natural” diapers market themselves safe and environmentally sound, but they have a synthetic ingredient that can “strip skin of pigment,” a federal class action claims.
Christina Franjul and Veronica Brenner, of New York and California, respectively, filed the federal complaint Thursday against Huggies parent Kimberly-Clark Corp. and two subsidiaries.
The 32-page filing accuses the Fortune 500 company of deceiving consumers who are growing more conscious of the dangers of mass-marketed household products.
“In recent years, consumers have become significantly more aware and sensitive to the toxicity and impact of household products on their health, the health of their children, and the general environment,” the complaint states. “As a result, demand has increased for so-called ‘green’ products that are naturally derived, environmentally sound, and non-toxic.”
The Huggies diapers appeal to this demographic with promises of “soft organic cotton,” and healthy green leaves providing a canopy over a smiling baby who has the words “pure & natural” hovering over his belly.
The diapers, however, are “neither pure nor natural” because they contain ingredients such as polypropylene, sodium polyacrylate, sodium methylparaben and methylisothiazolinone, the class says.
A Washington-based watchdog called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) describes sodium methylparaben as a “human endocrine disrupter,” and the European Union has banned the substance for its potential to “strip skin of pigment,” according to the lawsuit.
The EWG has also linked methylisothiazolinone to skin toxicity, immune system toxicity and allergic reactions.
“Furthermore, until around June 2010, Huggies Natural Wipes contained a substance called DMDM hydantoin, which is a ‘formaldehyde releaser’ – i.e., over time, it releases formaldehyde, which is a preservative classified as a carcinogen by the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration,” the complaint states.
In addition, the women say, the “organic cotton” advertised on the packaging refers only to the material on the outside of the diaper.
“The organic cotton, thus, never actually comes into contact with the ultimate user, the baby,” according to the complaint.
The class seeks punitive damages for 10 violations of federal and state law, including the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of express warranty, and California, Florida and New York consumer protection statutes.
It is represented by attorney Joseph Marchese of Bursor & Fisher.
Kimberly-Clark actually discontinued Huggies Natural Diapers and removed methylisothiazolinone from Huggies Natural Wipes after two other women hit it with a similar federal class action last month in San Francisco.
A footnote in the new complaint notes that the company has not recalled the products, which are “still available for purchase online and on shelves nationwide.”
Kimberly-Clark declined to comment on pending litigation