Attorney General Alleges “Dangerous” Consumer Fraud by Drinkable Sunscreen & Mosquito Repellent Marketers
released on March 14, 2017
found in newsletter: March 2017
DES MOINES – Attorney General Tom Miller alleges the makers of “drinkable sunscreen” failed to prove their product provides the advertised protection against cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays, in a consumer fraud lawsuit filed today in Polk County District Court.
The lawsuit against Osmosis LLC and Harmonized Water LLC, and their owner, Benjamin Taylor Johnson, MD, all of Evergreen, Colorado, alleges the defendants initially marketed their “UV Neutralizer,” proclaimed as the “world’s first drinkable sunscreen,” without any valid testing to prove its claims. The lawsuit also alleges the defendants later conducted “seriously flawed” testing that “recklessly gave consumers hollow assurances that they were protected from known health hazards.”
“We allege that Johnson and his companies put consumers at considerable risk by claiming that spraying UV Neutralizer into their mouths will provide hours of sun protection,” Miller said. “These defendants admit that this product’s only ingredient is water, and we allege they can’t support their highly questionable claims that they can specially treat ordinary water to take on a wide range of health-enhancing properties.”
According to the lawsuit, Osmosis has claimed that UV Neutralizer water makes “scalar waves” “vibrate” above the skin, blocking carcinogenic UV radiation. The suit alleges the company has no basis for its scalar wave claim, and can’t prove the product works at all.
“It’s flat-out dangerous to consumers to make them think without any proof that this water protects them from what we know is proven—potentially cancer-causing exposure to the sun,” Miller said.
Other Products and Claims
The defendants sell other so-called “Harmonized Water” products. Each small bottle, which retails at $30-$40, claims different beneficial effects depending upon its unique “frequency.” The bottles of water make various claims including clearing up acne, stabilizing bacteria levels, addressing infertility, reducing hair loss, and relieving pain, among other purported benefits.
The suit highlights one of these other products in particular for its potential public health impact, “Harmonized H2O Mosquito,” sold as a mosquito repellent.
“Mosquitos in Iowa can carry West Nile Virus, and mosquitos in many vacation destinations can pose a Zika virus risk,” Miller said. “It is inexcusably and dangerously reckless to profit by exposing customers to these risks without adequate proof of effectiveness.”
Iowa Law: Sellers Must Back Product Claims
Under Iowa law, according to the lawsuit, a seller claiming that its product can perform certain functions or provide certain benefits must have a reasonable basis for the claim. The suit alleges that the defendants can’t provide the required level of substantiation for UV Neutralizer or Harmonized H2O Mosquito – or for any other Harmonized Water product.
Miller’s lawsuit notes the device that the defendants claim “imprints” the various “frequencies” onto water molecules, called the Harmonizer, was created in Carroll, Iowa, and was sold to Osmosis in 2009.
“Although our lawsuit alleges that the talk about imprinting frequencies on water is classic pseudo-science,” Miller said, “under Iowa law we don’t have to prove that. The defendants have to prove that their products work as claimed, and we allege they simply can’t.”
The lawsuit details several other instances of alleged consumer fraud by the defendants:
Although Osmosis advertisements emphasize Johnson’s status as a doctor, they don’t disclose that he surrendered his Colorado license to practice medicine in disciplinary proceedings in 2001 and never got it back.
Osmosis has claimed that the effectiveness of the UV Neutralizer was proved through clinical studies in 2014 and 2016. However, the lawsuit alleges that both studies had serious flaws and irregularities that undermine their supposed scientific value.
Osmosis has used misleading customer testimonials, including testimonials from people with a financial interest in selling Osmosis products and a UV Neutralizer endorsement from a woman who got sunburned while using the product.
“It’s bad enough when a consumer wastes money on a product that doesn’t work,” Miller said. “But it’s much worse when someone relies on a product to prevent serious harm, and it just doesn’t deliver.”
Be skeptical of ads touting extraordinary health benefits that seem to violate common sense. Scientific-sounding language can be used to promote worthless remedies.
Beware of supposed “scientific breakthroughs” that you first hear about in someone’s product ad. Genuine breakthroughs are likely to receive widespread publicity through trusted news sources.
Remember that dietary supplements often claim specific health benefits, but they can go on the shelves without proof that they are safe, or that they really work. By contrast, prescription drugs must be scientifically tested before going public.
Get advice from trusted health professionals who know you and are well-situated to evaluate the best treatments for you. They are typically the most reliable source of help in dealing with health challenges.
With health fraud as with other consumer frauds, if it sounds too good to be true, it is almost certainly not true.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to email@example.com. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 888-777-4590.
Original Press Release