A federal judge in New York has ordered a stay in six proposed class action lawsuits accusing various manufacturers of selling “flushable” wipes that clogged pipes, causing damage to both home plumbing systems and those in municipal wastewater treatment systems. The wipes allegedly damaged these systems because they failed to disintegrate after being flushed, which, according to the Plaintiffs, contradicts their claim to be “flushable” and amounts to false and deceptive advertising. Similar lawsuits filed across the country have not been stayed.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently investigating the meaning of the term “flushable” to determine whether the wipes are falsely marketed and sold. U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein stated that an FTC ruling clarifying this term will help prevent inconsistent judgments across various jurisdictions. The judge also noted that one manufacturer, Nice-Pak Products, Inc., whose products are sold by CVS and Costco Wholesale Corp., among others, had already reached a tentative agreement with the FTC. Under the terms of this agreement, Nice-Pak would stop advertising its wipes as being “flushable” unless it could substantiate that claim, and it would also cease providing retail customers with information used to make that claim on its products.
The flushability of these wipes has recently been questioned across various platforms. News reports have documented the extensive damage caused by collected heaps of wipes to both individual and municipal waste water disposal systems and ultimately advised people against flushing them. Even municipalities have taken action, including New York City Council members who proposed legislation cracking down on the “flushable” marketing statements, and cities such as Seattle issuing warnings to their residents.
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