Top 10 Worst Products for Massachusetts Consumers of the Decade

Take a look back at the worst consumer products of the 2010s presented by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) protects and empowers consumers through advocacy and education, and ensures a fair playing field for the Massachusetts businesses its agencies regulate. We also oversees five agencies-–the Division of Banks, Division of Insurance, Division of Professional Licensure, Division of Standards, and Department of Telecommunications and Cable–-which enforce Massachusetts regulations as a means of consumer protection.

An educated consumer is empowered and able to make the best possible decisions. We have compiled a “Top 10 Worst Products for Massachusetts Consumers of the Decade” list. The products and services are featured on this list because they have caused harm to consumers and resulted in legal or legislative action, recalls, and other steps taken to protect consumers. For product recall details visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Table of Contents

10. Google Glass

Number 10 - Google Glass

Some products never reach their peak before making a negative consumer impact, and that is true for Google Glass in 2013. The eyeglass shaped head-mounted display with smartphone capabilities was designed to take technology with you literally everywhere by allowing users to run apps, record videos, and place calls all by using voice commands.

Before sales could take off a negative opinion of Google Glass was formed comparing the new technology to spy-wear and early adopters were often asked to remove the equipment in public spaces. Google Glass was subsequently banned from restaurants, banks, and casinos. In 2015 Google discontinued the product.

9. Garcinia Cambogia

9. Garcinia Cambogia

In 2015 the weight loss craze, garcinia cambogia, took the world by storm. This herbal diet supplement was advertised on social media crediting major celebrity transformations. Many celebrities featured in garcinia cambogia advertisements spoke out against the companies using their images calling the products a scam. Garcinia cambogia began causing problems for consumers at the start of the decade when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning cautioning consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut, a product also containing the natural extract.

Two years after the magic supplement’s rise in popularity, the FDA warned consumers once again against garcinia cambogia to stop using all weight loss products containing the ingredient.

8. Plastic Containing BPA

8. Plastic Containing BPA

This decade saw the decline of single-use plastic bottles first as a result of Bisphenol A (BPA) leaching plastics. BPA, a chemical used to make certain plastics and often contained in water bottles, may seep into food or beverages from their containers causing harm to the human body. The toxic chemical has been linked to causing reproductive, neurological, respiratory, and cardiovascular issues.

In 2012, the FDA banned the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA plastics. While the FDA has not completely banned all plastics containing BPA, companies such as Poland Springs, Dasani, Tupperware, Ziploc, and Rubbermaid have removed the component from their plastic containers. Department store shelves are stocked with stainless steel and glass water bottles to replace the use of plastic and water comes in recycled paper bottles. The days of plastic containing BPA seems to have ended with this decade.

7. Straws

7. Straws

Single-use plastic straws received a lot of negative attention beginning in 2017 due to the impact on our oceans and marine wildlife. Sea turtles have frequently been found entangled in plastic or with straws logged in their nostrils. In an effort to eliminate plastic waste straw bans began.

Seattle became the first city in the United States to ban plastic straws in July 2018 followed by major companies like Starbucks, American Airlines, and Aramark. Single-use plastic straws have been replaced by paper, stainless steel, and silicone.

6. Smart Speakers and Televisions

6. Smart Speakers and Televisions

Voice recognition technology and smart devices make our lives easier and more entertaining, but the technology may also be recording and exposing personal information without your knowledge. This decade saw a wave of smart devices from speakers to washing machines, every inch of your home can be connected to the internet. Many companies may listen to user conversations in order to improve software which is why increased usage of these devices often result in improved performance. Typically conversations under review are anonymized and don’t include compromising personal information. However, your privacy is still at risk.

Samsung smart televisions had a track record this decade of listening to user conversations and have been involved in many lawsuits. A Massachusetts woman is suing Amazon on behalf of her 10-year-old daughter, and is seeking class-action status to sue on behalf of children in other states. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon recorded children using its Alexa devices without parental consent. The suit also claims the recordings were stored in a database containing private details of millions of smart speaker users. Similar complaints have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Most smart device makers have updated their applications allowing users to control and review recordings.

5. Inclined Infant Sleepers

5. Inclined Infant Sleepers

Purchasing products that keep our children safe are a top priority. Inclined sleepers became one of the most popular products on every new mom’s baby shower registry offering a solution for sleepless nights. The sleepers have many options such as vibrating, rocking, and audio that soothe newborns. However, over time asphyxia related deaths were reported as a result of the reclined position causing restricted airways—over 30 instant deaths have been linked to the sleepers in a decade.

The makers of the product issued a warning to stop the usage of the sleeper for children 3 months old and up. Inclined sleepers sold by Fisher Price, Eddie Bauer, and Disney were recalled from the market for safety concerns.

4. Lithium-ion Batteries

4. Lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries were designed as an energy and potential waste saving product. Beginning in 2014 these convenient long lasting batteries were failing causing fires and even explosions. The fires occurred in hover boards, e-cigarettes, portable phone chargers, mobile phones, luxury electronic vehicles, and more.

In 2019 the United States Department of Transportation banned travelers from storing lithium ion cells or batteries on passenger planes. Businesses using cargo planes to shipment methods cannot ship the batteries with more than a 30 percent charge. While the Federal Aviation Administration does not ban lithium-ion batters, they request these batteries be stored in the passenger area of the aircraft. Lithium-ion battery fires also occurred in luxury electronic vehicles, hover boards, and e-cigarettes. Recently, scientists from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory recently designed a lithium-ion battery that won’t catch fire.

3. Tanning Beds

3. Tanning Beds

Although tanning beds were first introduced in the 1920s the dangers have been addressed this decade. Ultraviolet radiation consists of both UVA and UVB rays, which both damage skin and can cause skin cancer. Indoor tanning beds expose you to both kinds of UV rays. In 2009, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified UV tanning beds as Class 1 human carcinogen—the highest risk category.

In 2011 California became the first state in the nation to ban minors from using banning beds. Now more than 40 states including Massachusetts regulate the use of tanning beds for people under the age of 18. Certain cities and municipalities require parental consent or allow limited use by minors.

2. Vapes / E-cigarettes

2. Vapes

The growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping caused a national health crisis during 2019 in both Massachusetts and across the nation. According to the CDC the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens and young adults. E-cigarettes include nicotine—an addictive substance known to harm developing adolescent brains. Nicotine affects the part of the brain that controls attention, learning, mood, and impulse control in people under 25 years of age.  As of November 2019 almost 50 deaths in 25 different states were linked to vaping related illnesses. Three of these vaping related deaths occurred in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has been a leader in combatting the use of vaping devices and products. In September Governor Baker banned the sale of all vape related devices and products for three months. In late November the Governor signed into law a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes. Both of these measures were groundbreaking and considered the toughest measures taken to date in the United States. These actions strive to save lives while protecting consumers of all ages throughout the Commonwealth. If you or your loved ones are vaping, resources are available to help you attempt to quit. Start 2020 healthy, happy, and vape-free!

1. OxyContin

1. OxyContin

OxyContin is the brand name of Purdue Pharmaceutical’s opioid pain reliever which came under fire in the mid-2000s as a highly addictive and overly prescribed medication. Countless lawsuits have been filed against Purdue Pharma alleging misleading marketing practices and misrepresentation of the drug. Currently, the pharmaceutical company is still facing thousands of state and local lawsuits including cases in Massachusetts. In 2018, Attorney General Healey filed the first lawsuit by any state against the executives and directors of Purdue Pharma. The Massachusetts suit alleges that Purdue and its executives and directors deceived doctors and the public to get more people on addictive opioids, at higher doses, for longer periods of time, causing thousands of Massachusetts residents to suffer, overdose, or die. As a result of the many lawsuits and settlement, the makers of OxyContin filed for bankruptcy in September of 2019.

The use of opioid pain relievers has led to a nationwide epidemic that is threatening the lives of an entire generation. The FDA has approved a reformulated version of the drug and labeling in hopes to discourage abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid dependence the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline has free and confidential resources available for finding treatment and recovery services.

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