Near the end of last year, a class-action lawsuit was settled against Thinx period- absorbing underwear. Class members accused the company of lying to customers by advertising their underwear as a non-toxic and safe alternative to traditional period productsdespite the presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) in their products.
The lawsuit was filed in May of 2022 when it first gained traction online through social media outlets. At the time, the common misconception was that the lawsuit was against the use of PFAs in their underwear. The lawsuit instead focused on how the products were advertised.
“It was more of a marketing lawsuit than about the actual toxins,” said Kimberlyn Hollon-Morseau (’23). “[Thinx] never actually admitted that there were toxins or that it was harmful.” Increased exposure to PFAs has been linked to medical issues such as cancer, thyroid issues and reproductive problems.
Thinx has denied these allegations but is still offering refunds to anyone who purchased their product between Nov. 12, 2016 and Nov. 28, 2022. The company is offering cash reimbursement for up to three pairs of purchased underwear, or up to a 35% discount on future purchases.
“So, you’re trying to market when you have a lawsuit,” said Hollon-Morseau. “I don’t know, it just felt icky to me.” Offering discounts on products, as well as denying that their underwear can cause any long-term harm, has affected consumers’ confidence in the brand. Anyone who is refunded for their purchases must sign an agreement that they will not take any further legal action against the company.
“Menstruating people’s health was never their main concern when it should have been their top priority,” said Carina Andrews (‘24). Although Thinx has taken steps to correct their image, their actions have left many customers disappointed and unwilling to support their products going forward.
“Unfortunately, things like this that sound too good often disappoint us,” said Dr. Chih-Ping Chen, Co-Director of the Women and Gender Studies Department at Alma College. “I think it’s probably a wake-up call for [some] people. It will happen again with another company as long as people are willing to buy.”
“Research into the risks of dermal exposure is pretty limited because it is difficult to measure,” said The Washington Post. PFAs are understood to be dangerous in high amounts, and they can commonlybefoundinanywater- resistant garment on the market.
“I’m not [going to] willingly buy something… especially when it’s going near my vagina,” said Hollon-Morseau. Although PFAs are commonly found in products today, experts have recommended that people try to avoid them as much as possible since their negative effects happen with increased exposure.
One of the main points of frustration from customers and supporters of the brand has been how they marketed the product versus its actual effects. According to the plaintiffs in the case, Thinx capitalized off of menstruators’ desire for non-invasive and safe products.
“[Thinx] sees that they don’t have to back off, they don’t have to regulate themselves more, they can still make that much money- -why do they want to bother changing?” said Dr. Chen. Thinx has vowed to change their products and make them safer, but some are questioning if this will lead to any real change.
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