Class Claims Toxin Was in Aluminum Bottles
LOUISVILLE (CN) - A federal class action claims SIGG Switzerland (USA) concealed that its reusable aluminum bottles contained bisphenol A, a toxin that mimics estrogen and may cause cancer from prolonged exposure.
SIGG USA, a subsidiary of aluminum product manufacturer SIGG Switzerland, began selling its aluminum bottles in the United States for adults and children in 2005.
The products, marketed for health- and environmentally conscious consumers at retailers such as grocer Whole Foods and the outdoor gear chain REI, became increasingly popular after consumers began searching for bottles that did not contain BPA, a compound sometimes used in production of plastic bottles.
Named plaintiffs Allison Johnson and Melissa Tantibanchachai say that after media reports and government agencies expressed concerns about BPA in 2007, SIGG USA benefited from the unease by claiming its bottles were BPA-free.
When consumer groups reported that SIGG's bottles did contain BPA, the company "struck back" and released several "aggressive statements claiming its bottles were BPA-free," according to the complaint.
But in August this year, SIGG USA's CEO Steve Wasik stated in a letter posted on the company Web site that SIGG bottles produced before August 2008 did contain low levels of BPA in the liner, according to the complaint. Wasik also revealed in the letter that SIGG switched the liner to a "BPA-free EcoCare" liner in August 2008 and that the company had started working on replacing the water-based epoxy bottle liner that contained the BPA in 2006, the class claims.
Plaintiffs say Wasik tried to excuse SIGG's concealment by claiming that the public conversation had been focused on "BPA leaching from bottles" - which SIGG's products allegedly never did - rather than the "mere presence of BPA."
The plaintiffs seek class damages for breach of contract, breach of warranties and violations of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act.
They are represented by K. Gregory Haynes with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs of Louisville.
After the complaint was filed, Wasik released another letter to the public. The Sept. 1 posting stated that "after reading and responding to hundreds of emails and viewing nearly as many blog and Twitter posts" he realized that his "first letter may have missed the mark." Waski wrote that he should have said "simply and loudly" that he and the company are "sorry that ... [they] did not make ... [their] communications on the original SIGG liner more clear from the very beginning."
Wasik said the company will swap old SIGG bottles for ones with the new liner until Oct. 31.