CVS Health faces a class action lawsuit over claims the pharmacy chain falsely advertised its flushable wipes as safe for sewer and septic systems, indicating the product has actually caused wide spread plumbing problems and property damage after the wipes were found to be clogging pipes.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on November 11, naming CVS Health Corporation and Nice-Pak Products as defendants, alleging that cleansing wipes were marketed as flushable, even though they lack the ability to effectively disintegrate. This has reportedly contributed to hundreds of millions in damages annually.
The CVS “flushable” wipes lawsuit was brought by New York resident, Scott Cholewa, indicating that Flushable Cleansing Wipes and Health Maximum Strength Formula Medicated Wipes were labeled as biodegradable and safe to flush, despite failing to meet Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines.
Under FTC guidelines flushable wipes must be designed to break down in a short amount of time after consumers flush them to avoid clogging or other operational problems in household and municipal sewage lines, septic systems, and other standard wastewater equipment.
According to the lawsuit, CVS flushable wipes do not meet any of the criteria required to advertise the products as flushable products, and as a result have caused consumers to flush the products, which have resulted in plumbing issues.
Cholewa indicates his home’s plumbing system backed up in March, after flushing a CVS wipe, which resulted in the need for professional plumbers to remove the clog. The incident also resulted in widespread water damage to his home, which necessitated the removal of flooring in several rooms.
Cholewa claims the misleading misrepresentations that CVS Flushable Wipes are suitable to be flushed not only resulted in financial damages to his home, but that he would not have paid a premium for the products if not for CVS’s fraudulent advertising of its products.
The lawsuit presents claims of negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty and violations of New York consumer protection laws, seeking statutory damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, restitution, disgorgement, court costs and attorneys’ fees on behalf of Cholewa and all other similarly situated consumers who were deceptively mislead by fraudulent marketing claims.
Flushable cleansing wipes may be used for a variety of purposes, including baby care, hand washing, feminine and other personal cleansing, removing makeup, and applying products such as deodorants and sunless tanners, among other uses.
The products have become increasingly popular over the last decade, with the Flushable Wipes industry recording $2.1 billion in sales in 2018, and sales projected to be as high as $3.5 billion by 2023.
However, some have claimed the growing popularity of the products to be a direct threat to sewer and septic systems across the U.S., with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) estimated flushable wipes cause approximately $441 million per year in additional operating costs in the collection systems of clean water utilities.
Another study conducted in 2019 by Ryerson University in Toronto examined 101 single-use wipes products, including 23 wipes products labeled as “flushable” by the manufacturer. According to the results of their tests, none of the products disintegrated or dispersed enough to safely pass through the average home’s plumbing system.