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Trial Opens With Tales of Exploding Products

SAN DIEGO (CN) — At the start of a trial Tuesday on exploding gender-prediction tests, the court heard testimony from one mother who sustained chemical burns.

"That's probably going to be there for the rest of my life," said Christine Brenneis, pointing to a few dark spots on her face left by an Intelligender kit that exploded on her.

The mother of four bought her Intelligender test at a Babies R Us store in Vista.

She said she knew her fourth child would be her last baby and thought taking the gender-prediction test would "be something fun to do."

She read and followed the directions on the package, according to her testimony, peed in the cup and used the syringe in the kit to test her urine. The test fizzed and exploded, shooting urine onto the ceiling and wall and into her face and hair.

Brenneis said the test had not even changed color when it exploded, and the chemicals burned her face. She said she was also hit on the cartilage of her ear and that if she sleeps on it, it still hurts.

The Brenneis testimony was one of several videotaped depositions played Tuesday for Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil.

San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith filed the lawsuit against Intelligender in 2012 on behalf of the people of California.

Goldsmith's trial brief says the corrosive and volatile ingredients in the test have brought numerous complaints that the product has "exploded on pregnant consumers, caused chemical skin burns, caused trips to the emergency room, damaged property and simply doesn't work."

The city seeks an injunction, restitution and civil penalties.

The test is similar to a pregnancy test: Urine is tested to determine the sex of a fetus through a color change, green for boy and orange for girl.

Intelligender says on its website that the its can be taken as early as 10 weeks into pregnancy, but warns, "It may not predict your baby's gender with 100 percent accuracy."

Intelligender's tests are sold in the family planning section of drug stores, typically next to pregnancy tests. But unlike pregnancy tests, the gender prediction tests are not regulated by the FDA, according to the trial brief.

Directions instruct women to agitate the product by "swirling rapidly for 10 seconds," which Goldsmith says creates an exothermic reaction that causes pressure to build in the test container.

Intelligender and retailers conceal that the test contains hazardous ingredients and endangers consumers, and misrepresent its accuracy, in violation of state consumer protection and health and safety laws, the city says.

The test is sold in the United States, Mexico, Russia, China and the Middle East, at stores such as CVS, Target and Babies R Us.

Lori Emelio testified in a videotaped deposition that she "really wanted" a boy after having two daughters and thought the Intelligender test was about as accurate as getting an ultrasound. She said she looked up reviews on Amazon and the Intelligender website, and bought the test based on claims that the test was "100 percent accurate."

Emelio said her test exploded, and that the packaging had no warning or indication that the ingredients could do that.

She said she has friends who took the Intelligender test, some of whom got accurate results and some of whom did not. The explosion and her friends' experiences made her discourage her sister from spending $40 to buy the test, Emelio said.

Brenneis said she immediately sent an email to the company because she "wasn't sure if it was normal for the test to do that." She said she received a quick response, asking for the lot number on the box and where she bought the test.

Intelligender sent her a refund check for $40 and a new test. Brenneis said she did not use the replacement test, because she had already knew the sex of her baby and didn't want the test to explode on her again.

In response to questions from Intelligender's attorneys, Brenneis said taking the test "was more for me, just for fun" and that it "was a different type of test that I've never seen before."

Brenneis said did not expect the test to replace an ultrasound and did not go to the doctor after the test exploded.

Kim Pulaski, Intelligender's director of operations, testified that the company has no policy on responding to customer emails or complaints about the test. Pulaski said she managed two other Intelligender employees, who would send her customer complaints they "didn't know how to deal with," including complaints about exploding tests.

Pulaski said that sometimes if a test does not change color much it means it's a girl, and that the directions indicate that.

She said she knew the test is a skin irritant, because customers said they felt a burning sensation when the test exploded, but she did not know what chemicals were in the test.

Pulaski said she would meet with the founders of the company to discuss complaints of explosions and ambiguous or inaccurate test results.

The trial brief discussing the chemicals in the gender prediction test was redacted by court order to protect Intelligender's trade secrets. Dr. Derek Beauchamp, a laboratory director hired by the plaintiffs to test the chemicals inside the gender prediction test is expected to take the stand May 31.

The trial is expected to last a month.

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