Fitbit Flex Allergic Reactions Result in New Warnings

While Fitbit will not be forced to recall their Flex series of activity-tracking wrist bands, the manufacturer has agreed to provide additional warnings about the risk of allergic reactions experienced by some users. 

The Fitbit Flex warnings were announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on October 17, after the agency opted not to push for a Fitbit Flex recall, provided that the company adds a new warning label detailing size guidelines and indicating that the product contains nickel and other common allergens.

The decision came after an investigation by the agency determined the that Fitbit Flex may cause skin irritation due to the nickel and small levels of methacrylate’s used as adhesives.

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Fitbit’s chief executive, James Park, told the New York Times that users are most likely experiencing allergic contact dermatitis from either the nickel or a chemical used in the adhesive when the band is fastened tightly around the wrist.

Nickel is a commonly known allergen to people but failure to indicate the presence of the material on the product has led to many skin irritations. The wristbands also contain an adhesive called methcrylates, which is a family of chemicals commonly used in adhesives and paints as a very strong bonding agent. The company has refused to identify the type of methacrylate used in the Fitbit Force bands.

Health officials say the reactions are not dangerous, but people may now be sensitized to the chemical and may run into problems if they encounter it again in other settings.

Fitbit recalled more than a million Fitbit Force activity-tracking wristbands in February, which lead to roughly 1.7% of consumers issuing complaints of rashes, blisters, and other irritations of the wrist where the band is fastened. Complaints filed against the manufacturer and to the CPSC have indicated consumers sought medical treatment trying to figure out how they received the rash and where it came from.

Activity tracking devices such as the Fitbit models are increasing in popularity with sales rising from 500,000 in 2012 to over 5 million units sold worldwide in 2013. Fitbit officials believe the new warning labels, and instructions not to fasten the band too tightly, can reduce the risk of user irritation.

Photo Courtesy of David Horne / C.C. by 2.0


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