Apparently, owners of the new FitBit Force are reporting burns and rashes appearing from wear of the product, and FitBit is finally requesting that people send theirs back.
Fitbit said it is halting sales of its newest fitness-tracking bracelet and recalling the product after months of complaints from consumers who say the band has caused rashes on their wrists.
The voluntary recall of the Fitbit Force is a serious setback for a startup that markets its products as a way to “help people lead healthier, more active lives.” It is also a public relations headache, coming days before Fitbit shows off its products in Barcelona at next week’s Mobile World Congress, an annual confab for the mobile industry with tens of thousands of attendees.
The San Francisco company said in a statement that it was conducting the recall of its newest bracelet “out of an abundance of caution” and repeated an offer to refund consumers who purchased the $129 Force.
In a blog post, Fitbit Chief Executive James Park wrote that 1.7% of Force users had reported an irritation. In the company statement, Fitbit said “affected users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction” to materials in the bracelet.
Mr. Park wrote that “some users may be reacting to the nickel,” a component of the stainless steel used in the device. Others, he wrote, “are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.”
The Force is Fitbit’s newest product, designed to track people’s activity, such as steps taken, distance traveled and calories burned. At night, it tracks users’ sleep patterns. Data can be seen on the wristband’s display or on a smartphone or computer.
Soon after its release in October, wearers began complaining about blisters, rashes and itchy dry patches on their wrists. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that some of the skin problems required medical attention and prescription medication. At least one person said that she had been offered a financial settlement from Fitbit.
Since that report, the Journal has received emails from others who say they developed similar rashes from Fitbit’s earlier products.
Now, I skimmed the comments – I know, I know, most comments sections are minefields – and saw this comment:
Fitbit has a real problem on its hands. And they’re still not telling their customers what the problem is.
Skin exposure to nickel can *cause* nickel allergy. It develops after repeated or prolonged exposure to nickel in an item worn next to the skin. You can treat the symptoms, but you will always have the allergy from that point forward. So you need to be careful about jewelry, watches, eyeglass frames and other such objects….for the rest of your life.
This is not a “stop wearing the Fitbit Force and the problem will go away” situation. They’ve created an ongoing health issue for those Fitbit Force customers.
I do not believe this was intentional. I think they were punked by a Chinese manufacturer. Perhaps they didn’t oversee the manufacturing process adequately. It happens. — Charleen Larson
This stood out to me because, if she’s correct and this kind of exposure can create an allergy in someone as opposed to irritating an already-present one, then it’s a nasty situation – we wear our fitness tracking devices twenty-four seven (at least I do), so you would hope that the manufacturers would use non-irritating metals for this, right?
Apparently, not. Larson was right. From CNN:
Nickel allergy is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis — an itchy rash that appears when your skin touches a usually harmless substance.
Nickel allergy is commonly associated with earrings and other jewelry for body piercings. But nickel can be found in many everyday items — from coins to necklace clasps, from watchbands to eyeglass frames.
Nickel allergy can affect people of all ages. A nickel allergy usually develops after repeated or prolonged exposure to items containing nickel. Treatments can reduce the symptoms of nickel allergy. Once you develop nickel allergy, however, you will always be sensitive to the metal and should avoid contact.
If your device has been recalled, visit contact.fitbit.com and get in touch with the FitBit team so that you can get a more reliable device. I hate to hear this happen to a good company – many people love and trust the FitBit brand – and it’s good to see them doing right by their supporters.
What do you think? Have you had this experience with your FitBit Force? What device are you using now?