Nasty Rashes From Fitbit ‘Force’ Tracking Bracelet Prompt Lawsuit

The author's Fitbit Force rash (Courtesy)

A Fitbit Force rash (Courtesy Alexandra Lucas)

I can just see the Harvard Business School case study: A company creates an online forum for its customers, aiming to pull buyers further in to the brand. But when a problem arises with the product, the online forum transmutes into a force that helps customers with complaints band together, share their woes and call for action. Ultimate outcome: a class-action lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal has just reported that the company Fitbit faces a lawsuit in California over rashes that developed on customers who wore its Force fitness tracking bracelet. It “alleges the company misled consumers in promoting and advertising the Fitbit Force device.”

The suit calls for Fitbit to notify every person who has bought the Fitbit Force device in the state of California, and to arrange to refund the $130 cost of the device, plus tax and any shipping fees. It also calls for Fitbit to provide a full disclosure of the cause of the wrist irritations.

…A Fitbit spokeswoman said the company didn’t have immediate comment.

Can we really connect the dots between the online forum and a class-action lawsuit? Perhaps we’ll find out as the suit unfolds. Certainly, the Internet hive-mind makes it ever harder to keep hundreds of nasty rashes secret. Boston health care executive Alexandra Lucas wrote about her own Fitbit rash on CommonHealth here: Love That Fitbit Force Tracker, Don’t Love The Wretched Wrist Rash, and notes the apparent impact of social media on the Fitbit response here.

Fitbit Force Recall: Case Study In Online Health Activism?

The author's Fitbit Force rash (Courtesy)

Alexandra Lucas’s Fitbit Force rash, even after weeks without the tracker (Courtesy)

Nearly a month ago, we posted a Boston health care executive’s account of the nasty rash she developed from the Fitbit Force activity tracker: Love That Fitbit Force Tracker, Don’t Love The Wretched Wrist Rash.

The author, Alexandra Lucas, described not just the rash but the vibrant online community that arose among Fitbit users who developed it, and asked: “Will social media wake the company up, or bring them down?”

On Friday, word spread that Fitbit had announced that it had stopped selling the Force and was issuing a voluntary recall.

The announcement by Fitbit CEO James Park does not mention the online user community and the mainstream media coverage it garnered. But the Fitbit Force story seems to offer an interesting case study in consumer health activism in the Internet age. Alexandra Lucas scanned the coverage of the recall, and found that 14 articles included mention of the Fitbit Forum and other social media. She emailed:

Reading this summary, I do think we made a difference in getting an unsafe product off the market — as well as creating an online resource on diagnosis and treatment for people who are affected.

The Fitbit discussion forum is going strong with 3,400 posts (!) and more than 600 people with the rash/burn identified on one member’s spreadsheet. Many of us feel that Fitbit is not doing enough to let the 98% not affected (yet) know of the risks they face by continuing to wear the Force, and we continue to spread the word online and through social media.

Here’s part of her list of media mentions of the online user forum: Continue reading

More Benefits Of Slathering Sunscreen: Fewer Wrinkles

After yesterday’s downpours, it’s honest-to-God sunscreen weather today. And if you’re like me — slathering sunscreen all over the kids but not bothering to slather myself until I’m hunkered down for a day at the beach — think again. A new, attention-grabbing study out this week bolsters the evidence that sunscreen should be a critical part of everyone’s daily health regimen.

The new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that daily use of sunscreen can help minimize wrinkles and aging skin. The Wall Street Journal reports that “people instructed to apply sunscreen every day showed 24% less skin aging, as measured by lines and coarseness of the skin, than those told to use the cream as they usually do.”



Here are more details from the Journal:

This study, part of a long-running skin-cancer-prevention trial, covered 903 adults younger than 55 living in Nambour, Australia, near the country’s Sunshine Coast. All study participants were given sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15+. Half were randomly to be instructed to apply the sunscreen daily to exposed areas, reapplying after water immersion, heavy sweating or several hours spent outdoors, while half were told to use it as they normally would.

By the end of the study, which was funded by the Australian government, 77% of those told to use sunscreen daily were using it at least three to four days a week, compared with 33% of the control group. (The sunscreen was provided by a sunscreen manufacturer.)

Researchers took silicone impressions of the backs of participants’ hands at the beginning of the study and after 4½ years. Trained assessors then graded the patterns of lines and skin coarseness on the hand impressions on a scale of one to six. The damage seen on the surface of the skin reflects the tissue damage underneath the skin, said Adèle Green, senior scientist and head of cancer and population studies at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia and lead author of the study.

The New York Times also covered the study, and noted that until now, “most studies of sun-damaged skin were conducted with mice, not people, and it was not clear whether the results would be the same.”

Dr. Barbara A. Gilchrest, a dermatology professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and the editor of The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, said she, too, found the study convincing. Continue reading

What The Sun Can Do To You — Even Through Glass

A truck driver featured in The New England Journal of Medicine

A truck driver featured in The New England Journal of Medicine ©2012. The NEJM asks that there be no resale of this image or use of the image by a commercial agency.

“Wow,” I said as it slowly dawned on me what I was seeing. This case appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine in April, but now that summer’s truly kicking in, this is the time to send it around to all the people you care about enough to remind them to wear sunscreen.

The man in the picture had been a delivery truck driver for 28 years, according to The New England Journal of Medicine case study. The journal calls his condition “unilateral dermatoheliosis,” which I would translate as “The sun has fried the side of his face that was next to the truck window.”

The explanation from doctors Jennifer R.S. Gordon and Joaquin C. Brieva of Northwestern University: “Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays transmit through window glass, penetrating the epidermis and upper layers of dermis. Chronic UVA exposure can result in thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum, as well as destruction of elastic fibers.”

The prescription: “The use of sun protection and topical retinoids and periodic monitoring for skin cancer were recommended for the patient.”

(Hat-tip to Boston University School of Public Health and