Recently you may have seen articles float across your news feed announcing a class action settlement for consumers who bought citronella candles. Most of the time class action lawsuits deal with pharmaceuticals, products or entities that have caused common injuries for a group of individuals.
For many people, the lemony, smoky scent of citronella is one of the background fragrances of summer. You may have most recently experienced it at your Fourth of July backyard barbecue, mingled with the scent of sparkler smoke and sizzling burgers. Could your go-to mosquito repellant be dangerous? How do you know if you should be concerned?
There’s been more than one case filed against citronella manufacturers. Let’s get straight to the facts.
Plaintiff Alleges Exploding Citronella Candles Caused Burns
California resident Mark Aguilar frequently goes camping. On one trip, he lit a Repel Citronella Candle manufactured by Spectrum Brands, Inc. to keep the mosquitoes at bay. When he went to extinguish it, he alleges the candle exploded, burning him all over his face with hot wax and chemicals.
Aguilar’s lawsuit alleges, “defects cause the candles to explode, causing serious injury and burns, and threat of serious damage, to the class members. In short, they cannot be operated in the method which a reasonable consumer would expect a candle to operate.”
The candles are sold at stores like WalMart, Target, Home Depot and other retailers for between five and seven dollars each. The case says, “The claims are evidenced by hundreds (if not thousands) of consumer complaints on the Internet.”
So will that citronella candle sitting on your patio explode next time you try to put it out? That case is still under way. Since the whole point of the product is to act as a mosquito repellant, there’s other information that brings one to wonder whether lighting a citronella candle is even worth it in the first place.
Are Citronella Candles Effective Against Mosquitoes?
To most people, they don’t smell all that great. They aren’t pleasing to the eye compared to other candles. They cost a lot, and sometimes it’s hard to keep them lit. But people buy them because they’re supposed to be a way to keep mosquitoes away without having to douse your skin with repellant or stay indoors. However, they might not work as well as many hope.
When the CDC looked into repellents, they stated citronella “may not be efficacious.” They also add insect repellents “should not be relied upon to prevent disease transmission, particularly where Lyme disease or encephalitis are endemic or malaria, yellow fever or other vector-borne diseases are prevalent.”
The America Mosquito Control Association says, “Citronella candles have a mild repellent effect, but do not offer significantly more protection than other candles producing smoke.” Read that again. According to a national organization that specializes in mosquito control, any smoke producing candle will have a mild mosquito-repellent effect. Perhaps it’s not the sticky scent, but the smoke.
The Recent $3.6 Million Class Action Settlement
Plaintiffs in a recent case filed a class action lawsuit against United Industries Corporation, maker of citronella candles and pest foggers like Black Flag, Hot Shot and Spectracide saying the companies made misleading claims about their effectiveness at getting rid of pests. The company says they didn’t do anything wrong, but a settlement was still reached.
United Industries Corp. is required to make changes to product packaging that’s more in line with performance. Also, class members can file a claim for compensation, but don’t get too excited if you’ve purchased those products in the past. Class members who don’t have proof of purchase can file a claim to get up to $7 for two units, up to a maximum of $14. Members who kept their receipts can claim a full refund for the purchase price of up to six units.
If You Were Injured by a Product
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