7 On Your Side: Complaints continue over rashes caused by Fitbit trackers

Michael Finney Image
Saturday, March 26, 2016
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The new Fitbit fitness trackers share a lot with the old ones, they are very popular, but some users say they cause terrible rashes

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The new Fitbit fitness trackers share a lot with the old ones, they are very popular, but some users say they cause terrible rashes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received more than 100 new complaints over the past year.

7 On Your Side has been reporting about the issue since it was recalled two years ago. Thousands of users complained of severe irritation. The company said the new trackers would solve the problem but there have been more complaints.

Delvin Williams wanted to be sure he was getting enough exercise. Williams said the Fitbit Charge activity tracker was a great motivator until he says it gave him a rash.

"It's irritated and it's red and leaves a bruise mark," Williams said.

So Williams bought a different model, the Fitbit Surge, but says that gave him a rash too.

"I bought two, and I have the same thing happening," Williams said.

Debra Beall of San Ramon used the Fitbit Charge and says she got a rash too.

"It was yellow and oozy and then it started bleeding," Beall said.

Beall and Williams are among scores of users claiming the latest Fitbit models caused an itchy burning reaction. 7 On Your Side counted more than 100 complaints filed with the consumer product safety commission -- the latest posted just last week

"I feel like there needed to be more safety on this," Beall said.

An online search of #Fitbit found even more complaints and photos.

"Basidcally all I want is for some answers, for Fitbit to come forward with anything they might know," Beall said.

Fitbit recalled its popular Force model two years ago after thousands of users broke out in burning rashes. The company said it reduced nickel and removed adhesives that can contact the skin, two culprits suspected of causing reactions. But now there have been continuing reports of skin irritation.

The company has responded to each complaint on the CPSC website with the same answer, saying in part Fitbit is aware that skin irritation affects a very limited number of consumers who use wearable devices all day and all night from sweat, water, or soap."

Fitbit also tells customers to wear it loosely and not all the time. Users say that defeats the purpose and doesn't help.

"I followed every safety precaution and to still have all these blisters come," Beall said.

Beall saw a doctor. Fitbit offered her a refund and also refunded Delvin for both trackers.

Fitbit said: "As the user base grows, we expect the number of reports [of skin irritation] to grow even though the overall incidence rate remains negligible. We continue to monitor this issue, as it impacts all companies that make products worn next to the skin, as people tend to wear devices for long periods without giving their skin a break."

7 on Your Side asked the CPSC about all those complaints.

"The agency is taking these reports seriously. CPSC staff are closely monitoring the incident reports," th agency said.

A check of social media also found a few reports of users getting skin irritation from other trackers like Apple Watch and Jawbone.