CHICAGO (CN) - Medela defrauded consumers by failing to disclose that its "vinyl plastic baby coolers for storing and transporting milk" contain too much lead, a class action claims in Federal Court. The class claims the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommended that parents discard the containers, but Medela refused to issue a recall.
"The U.S. Center for Disease Control has set a blood lead "level of concern" of a mere 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood (a microgram is 1/1,000,000th of a gram and a deciliter is 1/10th of a liter or about 1/10 of a quart), and new research suggests that serious health effects may begin to set in with blood levels as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter," the complaint states.
"On average, children under six will absorb and/or retain about 50 percent of the lead they ingest. Lead poisoning during the first three years of a child's life can critically impair brain and nervous system development. Young children are the most vulnerable to poisoning by lead, because their brains and nervous systems have yet to fully form."
The complaint continues: "High levels of lead were found in Medela's Coolers by CEH, [the CDC's Center for Environmental Health] which previously alerted the public to lead in vinyl baby bibs, lunchboxes and other children's products.
"CEH tested the baby products first with a hand-held metal detector then at a laboratory. The products were found to have from 1,100 parts per million of lead to 5,500 parts per million of lead, the group says. CEH informed Medela of its test results. 'Parents would never expect that when storing breast milk for their newborn, it could be contaminated by lead,' said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. 'There is no reason to have lead in baby products or anything used to hold breast milk for infants.'
"As of the results of its findings, Medela also recommended that concerned or uncomfortable purchasers send the Coolers back to the Company. CEH recommends that parents discard the Coolers.
"Despite the obvious and serious dangers of lead contamination of babies, Medela never instituted a recall of the products of its findings.
"Before May 16, 2008, Medela offered a replacement product to purchasers of its Coolers at some undetermined date in the future. After lawsuits were filed against Medela concerning the Coolers, however, Medela changed its offer. Medela now offers an $18 cash refund or a replacement Cooler. Medela posted this offer on its website at www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/response-to-ceh-claims. Medela has not taken any other steps to publicize this offer, thus failing to notify the Class of its offer."
Medela, a Delaware corporation, is based in McHenry, Ill.
The class seeks disgorgement, costs, punitive damages and an injunction. Its lead counsel is Mary Jane Fait with Wolf Haldenstein Adler.
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