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From Tylenol to Fitbit: 10 Notable Product Safety Recalls

The government’s primary products watchdog, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, announces recalls on at least one product every day, on average. Sometimes they go unnoticed by consumers; other times, buyers are injured — or worse — by defective goods. 


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Tylenol (1982) Problem: Poisoned pills

Number of incidents: 7 deaths

Seven people in the Chicago area died after taking Tylenol capsules that had been laced with cyanide. The perpetrator was never caught. In the crime’s aftermath, tamper-proof seals became an industry standard.

Now it's hard to imagine products not having tamper-proof seals.

Yeah, hard to believe those weren't always standard. 

Chicago Tylenol Murders: An Oral History

(TERROR IN A PILL: In 1982, seven Chicago-area residents were killed after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. Three decades later, in exclusives interview, the principal players in that drama relive what some consider the first act of domestic terrorism.)

Wednesday, September 29, 1982

6:30 a.m.

Mary Kellerman, a 12-year-old from Schaumburg, wakes up feeling sick. Her parents keep her home from school, and she takes some Tylenol.



TodayThirty years after the seven deaths, the Tylenol murders remain unsolved.

Investigator Pishos

"The FBI came and talked to me not too long ago because they reopened the case. They were going back and swabbing everyone for DNA because I believe they still have the bottles with the capsules, so they are ruling out anyone who was in contact with those bottles."

Dr. Kim

"The FBI called me six months ago asking me to do a DNA test. I asked them what was happening, and they said, “Well, we’re reopening the case.”

Rick Kappelman, Sergeant with the Arlington Heights police

"Without divulging any more than this, the investigation is at this point open and active. They are actively pursuing leads even at this late date."

Royden “Ross” Rice, Special agent in the FBI’s Chicago office

"The FBI is helping to coordinate a reinvestigation or a continuing investigation of the 1982 Tylenol poisonings. If evidence is developed which links a person or persons to that crime, they will in all likelihood be charged with violating state murder statutes in DuPage and/or Cook Counties. Because it’s still ongoing, we can’t discuss the case.

Published 2012

So they never caught who did it?

Wait, Fitbit had a recall?

(Fitbit (2014) 

Problem: Skin rashes

Number of incidents: 10,150 injuries reported

Fitbit recalled 1.1 million Fitbit Force wrist fitness trackers after some buyers had allergic reactions to the device’s materials. The Consumer Product Safety Commission received more than 10,000 incident reports, making it the agency’s second-largest recall in terms of reported injuries. (The largest was a trampoline with defective netting, linked to nearly 11,000 injury reports.)

A rash is considered an injury? Sheesh. 

The company said tests had found that the Fitbit Force was causing allergic contact dermatitis, a condition that occurs when substances touching the skin cause irritation or red, itchy rash reaction.

Contact dermatitis on the wrist 

Contact dermatitis can appear as an itchy, red rash. In this photo, the irritation is likely due to a watchband or to soap residue trapped beneath the band.


To treat contact dermatitis successfully, you need to identify and avoid the cause of your reaction. If you can avoid the offending substance, the rash usually clears up in two to four weeks. You can try soothing your skin with cool, wet compresses, anti-itch creams and other self-care steps.

Hmm, the company is still around do I guess they fixed the problem. 

"In response, Fitbit hired independent labs and medical experts to determine what was happening to some of the people who used the device and developed rashes. In a statement, the company said that it had taken the complaints about skin irritation “very seriously.”

In January, The Consumerist website wrote about some customers who said that they loved their Fitbit Force but that they had started to see a rash near the battery port of the tracker.

In a post on the company’s website, James Park, Fitbit’s chief executive and a co-founder, issued an apology to customers. Mr. Park said the materials in the Fitbit Force were commonly used in other consumer products and the rashes could be a result of a number of different components.

“Some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel used in the device,” he wrote on the site. “Other users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.”

He also said the company planned to continue working on a “next-generation tracker and will announce news about it soon.”

Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol) are many times used as an excellent example of good PR during a crisis. The company voluntarily recalled 31 million products, worth $100 million. No dodgeball with years of litigation like companies do now.

I wonder what it would take for more companies to own up to their mistakes. 

They've done even better with the PR following the establishment by several studies that (unadulterated) Tylenol is probably the #1 cause of kidney failure! 

Is it really? Worse than Advil?

I don't know... the studies I recall were from several years ago and I don't know how much is accounted for by market share.  They are both pretty horrible for repeated use.  Ibuprofen (advil) is very hard on the stomach. 

Aspirin is much better I think.  Ray Peat loves it and that community is always posting studies about how it benefits this or that.  It can also cause stomach damage but if you take it routinely, it's dramatically reduced after the first day or two.  Taking your aspirin with Vitamin K also mitigates many of the potential downsides.

I wonder what gave aspirin a bad rap. I guess the stomach damage but that vitamin K use helps that. 

Can Tylenol be a good short term solution to other things?

Ibuprofen is not much better, apparently. 

Also, long live our savers! 


sorry about that... I have a strange thing with Spoonerizing stuff

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