Top 10 Worst Products for Massachusetts Consumers of the Year 2021

Take a look back at the worst consumer products of the year 2021 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.

As part of our ongoing consumer education and outreach, OCABR is again sharing its “Top 10 Worst Products for Massachusetts Consumers List” of 2021. The use of the products featured on this list have resulted in legal or legislative action, recalls, and/or other measures to protect the public. For product recall details visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Please see the disclaimer below for additional details.

Table of Contents

10. Single-Use Dryer Sheets

10. Single-Use Dryer Sheets

Single-use dryer sheets often reduce static or add fragrance to your clothes, making this item a laundry room essential.  However, these aromatic sheets may be doing more harm than good to your threads and your dryer.  Research from the U.S. National Library of Medicine has identified components of the scented emissions from dryer sheets may be classified as hazardous air pollutants and carcinogens.  The scent transferred to clothes may make items more flammable.

As a result of these negative effects, many consumers have switched to dryer balls.  Dryer balls are a more sustainable option and usually made of all-natural materials, such as wool.  The environmentally friendly nature of dryer balls minimizes the risk of air or skin irritants, flammability, and have been found to decrease drying time, unlike dryer sheets.

9. Paraffin Wax Cones for Ears

9. Paraffin Wax Cones for Ears

Ear coning rose to popularity this year by trending on social media platforms as a home remedy for earwax build-up. While it may look like a quick and easy fix for an irritating problem, these paraffin wax candles can do much more harm than good. A paraffin wax ear cone or ear candle is a hollow wax cylinder made to remove excess earwax by lighting the top of the candle, creating a vacuum to draw out impurities from the ear.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers against ear candling citing reports of burns, perforated eardrums, and blockage of the ear canal.  If you are experiencing hearing loss or suspect ear canal blockage contact your primary care physician before using any at home remedies.

8. Plastic Sword Toys

8. Plastic Sword Toys

Toys that encourage interactive play are often family favorites, but this year Snake Eyes G.I. Joe Origins Ninja Strike Sickles came too close to resembling actual weapons.  This hazardous toy, among other plastic swords, are handheld imitation weapons that have the potential for blunt force trauma and eye injury.

Plastic swords toys hit the World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) “10 Worst Toys list this year.  W.A.T.C.H is a non-profit organization that has issued their worst toy list every holiday season since 1973. Check their full list to make to ensure that none of the toys on it end up on your list this season.

7. Styrofoam

7. Styrofoam

Styrofoam takes up about 30% of space in landfills worldwide. This non-biodegradable material used mostly for food storage, packaging, and shipping takes about 500 years to decompose and cannot be recycled according to a Washington University study. In addition to its environmental effects, extended exposure to the chemicals in Styrofoam can cause various health problems including, but not limited to, skin irritation and decreased kidney function.

More than 50 cities and towns in Massachusetts now ban the use of Styrofoam.  In December 2021, two bills were put forth in the Commonwealth to phase out and ban the use of certain plastic containers for takeout food, specifically containers made of polystyrene foam—commonly known as Styrofoam.  Large companies like McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts have also moved away from Styrofoam, opting for recyclable paper alternatives instead.

6. Baby Bath Seats

6. Baby Bath Seats

Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and infant bath seats are one of the most infamous contributors. Bath seats help keep babies still while in the bathtub, but if the seat tips over, it can cause disaster.  Infants’ movements are limited while strapped into the bath seat, so they are unable to protect themselves or move out of the water if the seat falls over.  This has caused the death of an average of seven children each year since 2000 alone.

The Frieyss brand infant bath seat was recalled this year for failure to meet the federal safety standards for the product.  Children’s advocacy groups, such as Kids in Danger (KID), have made various attempts for a nationwide ban on baby bath seats.  Consumers who use baby bath seats should closely monitor their child while using it or try a similar product that does not restrict movement.

5. Illegitimate CBD Remedies or Treatments

5. Illegitimate CBD Remedies or Treatments

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been getting a lot of attention due to its effectiveness as an anti-seizure medication, but unapproved CBD products are becoming more popular among consumers. Epidiolex, a prescription oil used for epilepsy, is the only CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Using unapproved CBD products can lead to unintended side effects, ranging from lightheadedness to liver damage in severe cases.

This year the FDA sent warning letters to companies illegally producing unapproved CBD products, and advises consumers to report adverse reactions associated with these products to the agency’s MedWatch Program.

4. Magnetic Ball Toys

4. Magnetic Ball Toys

Many parents encourage their children to play with toys that help develop coordination and dexterity, but magnetic ball toys are not sticking around this year.  Often called “Buckyballs” and “Buckycubes,” these toys consist of high-powered magnets that can be attached, pulled apart, and molded to create various shapes. If swallowed, the magnets can pierce the stomach lining, cause intestinal blockage, blood poisoning, or even death. 

Over 10 million magnetic balls sold by both Zen Magnets and Neoballs were recalled following the hospitalization of children ingesting pieces of the toy this year.  To help protect consumers from this hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued notices to companies selling high-powered magnetic balls and cubes as toys for children, insisting that purchasers are notified of the dangers.

3. Aerosol Sunscreen with Benzene

3. Aerosol Sunscreen with Benzene

Aerosol spray-on sunscreen serves an essential health purpose by protecting your largest organ.  When selecting a sunscreen to apply on your skin, be sure to read the ingredients on the label, especially if you’re choosing an aerosol spray.  Avoid products containing benzene, a toxic chemical found to cause cancer in humans.

Benzene was discovered in sprays from manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, and Proctor & Gamble, which led to a large product recall.  The full list of sunscreens, as well as instructions on what to do if you have used any of the products, can be found here.

2. Vapes

2. Vapes

For the third consecutive year in a row, vapes and e-cigarettes made our worst products list. Despite being marketed towards teenagers and young adults; the Center for Disease Control considers vapes unsafe for consumption by this group.  E-cigarettes are especially harmful as we continue to learn and deal with COVID-19, due to a potential increase in the risk of respiratory infection to those who vape.

This year OCABR in conjunction with the Department of Public Health launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping.  If quitting vaping is on your list this New Year, resources are available to help you stop.

1. Unapproved Prevention and Treatment for COVID-19

1. Unapproved Prevention and Treatment for COVID-19

As we navigate a new normal and determine which COVID-19 vaccine, prevention, test, or treatment to use, fraudsters are still working to profit from the pandemic. For the second consecutive year, unapproved COVID-19 prevention and treatment is the number one worst product for Massachusetts consumers.  Presently, there are only three FDA approved vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.  While vaccination is one of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19, some may be tempted to seek alternative solutions not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Miracle Mineral Solution has been advertised as a drinkable cure to COVID-19. Many individuals have been harmed after drinking this powerful bleaching agent.  The FDA warns against the use of this product and has received reports of people experiencing severe reactions such as vomiting, low blood pressure, dehydration, and acute liver failure. Visit the FDA for more information about FDA approved products related to COVID-19 safety

Additionally, if anyone attempts to charge you for the COVID-19 vaccine or assist with scheduling your vaccination appointment for a fee, this is a scam.  You cannot buy the vaccine and it is only available at federal and state approved locations. Always talk with your doctor or healthcare professional before you try any product claiming to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19.

Honorable Mentions

5. Onions
Onions provide your favorite dishes with the flavor it needs, but in 2021 the vegetable was a source of salmonella outbreaks.  This year, almost 900 people fell ill after consuming onions contaminated with salmonella.  The Center for Disease Control issued a food safety alert warning consumers of the salmonella outbreak linked to onions supplied by ProSource Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms.  In addition, the Food and Drug Administration compiled information on each food product associated with the onion recalls.

4. Portable Bed Rails
Everyone wants to be cozy in bed, and that is synonymous with safety. This year thousands of bed rails were recalled after reports of users becoming trapped between the rail and side of the mattress.

Users who have purchased portable bed rails from Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare should immediately stop using the product and contact their office at (877) 467-3099 to receive a full refund. For more information regarding the recall, visit www.drivemedical.com and click “Important Safety Information” at the top of the page.

3. Posture Corrector
Sitting up straight and standing tall are the keys to maintaining good posture.  This may be easier said than done, with many consumers reaching for posture correcting devices.  A MarketWatch News study reports that the ergonomic device industry is expected to grow by over 75% in the next four years. 

Posture correctors are worn braces or thick material placed between the back and chair to correct sitting and standing positions. However, there is little evidence to show the items significantly help bad posture and may lead to a dependency on the corrector or a decrease in core strength. If you find yourself slouching or in pain, consult with your physician to determine if there is an underlying condition contributing to poor posture.

2. Lidocaine
Healing or minimizing pain is extremely important to everyone, and lidocaine topical anesthesia presented an increasingly effective product this year.  Teligent Pharma Inc.’s Lidocaine HCI Topical Solution 4% was recalled three separate times in 2021 due to batches containing a higher-than-expected potency level. This high concentration could lead to reactions ranging from swelling and burning to cardiovascular collapse and even possibly death.

The Food and Drug Administration warns consumers who have purchased Lidocaine HCl Topical Solution 4% to discontinue use and send an email to medical@teligent.com for product questions and receive instructions on reimbursement.

1. Nail Guns
Nail guns and other home improvement project tools are in high demand this year.  According to the Center for Disease Control, nailers are responsible for about 37,000 emergency room visits every year.  In 2021, over 15,000 Hart 18-Gauge 2” Brad Nailers were recalled due to a faulty contact sensor that may allow involuntary discharge.

List Disclaimer:

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) strives to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible. The Office makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of this site, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of this site. No warranty of any kind, implied, expressed, or statutory, including but not limited to the warranties of non-infringement of third-party rights, title, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose or freedom from computer virus, is given with respect to the contents of this website or its links to other Internet resources.

Reference in this site to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by OCABR.

Date published: December 15, 2021
Last updated: December 25, 2021
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