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Airborne to Pay $23.3 Million for False Advertising

This article was written by in Consumer. 18 comments.


Last winter, I had more than my normal share of sick days. This year, I’ve managed to stay healthier (knock on wood), but during my series of colds in 2006-07, I received many recommendations at work for Airborne, a product designed by a teacher. The concept didn’t make much sense to me. Yes, teachers, particularly elementary school teachers, have increased exposure to germs through their students, but most teachers aren’t trained in nutrition and medicine.

The product contains 100% of the daily recommended value of Vitamins A and E, and 1667% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C. Prolonged excess Vitamin C intake will result in that nutrient simply being expelled through waste, and it’s likely that serious health risks can result. Airborne mixes these vitamins with some herbal extracts.

Taking Airborne didn’t have any measurable effect on my condition, and it turns out, the initial clinical trial for the product wasn’t much of a scientific experiment like one would expect for a drug-like product. Airborne claimed to “boost your immune system to help your body combat germs” and instructed users to “take it at the first sign of a cold symptom or before entering crowded, potentially germ-infested environments.”

As I would have expected, there is no proof that Airborne assists the health of an individual beyond the effect of a placebo. Airborne has been sued for false advertising. Today, the company has agreed to settle the lawsuit and pay $23.3 million.

Update: Here’s how to receive your portion of the class action settlement if you’re a qualifying customer.

Airborne Agrees to Pay $23.3 Million to Settle Lawsuit Over False Advertising of its “Miracle Cold Buster”
Nutrition Fact Sheet: Vitamin C


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Updated August 9, 2011 and originally published March 3, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar susan

My sister, a certified health educator, says that americans have the most expensive urine in the world due to all the unnecessary suppliments we take.

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avatar Lisa

Not to mention that the EPA is looking into monitoring for drugs like Prozac in our groundwater.

Lisa

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avatar SingleGuyMoney

Interesting post. I just purchased some Airborne last week due to the number of my coworkers being sick. So far, so good!

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avatar Mark @ TheLocoMono

That’s interesting, I swear by Airborne but as far as false advertising goes, 20 million is a wee bit low don’t you think?

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avatar Mr.

I looked at airborne briefly, because it had a following. For the price I looked closely enough to see that there was nothing to it. Plus the fact that they would throw around that it was created by a teacher, like that was something worth inspiring trust.

I saw the 20/20 were they went to the supposed ‘house/lab’ of the people who conducted the trials. They were long since gone.

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avatar Yana

That’s interesting, and makes me wonder. How did a teacher get this product on the market, and how could any claims be made? I sell a food supplement, but the law requires that I make no claim as to any benefit from using it, since I am not a medical or pharmaceutical professional. We’ve heard of Airborne, but never tried it. The amount of vitamin C in it is double what we take daily – more than I would ever want to take.

Also, Lisa, what do you mean by “groundwater”? I’m worried about chlorine and fluoride in tap water, and while I don’t know how to get away from the fluoride, I’ve just begun using bottled water more extensively – to avoid ingesting chlorine. I got to thinking that chlorine in our coffee, rice, boiled potatoes and vegetables, etc, is probably less than a good thing for our health.

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avatar Willfe

Yana: I hate to tell you this but many of the bottled waters sold by bottlers/distributors here are just pushing tap water through a water filter then bottling it.

You can buy yourself a filtering water bottle, or a filtering pitcher, or a filter for your kitchen sink, and you’ll be drinking the same stuff that comes out of the bottles, only much cheaper, and probably a good deal cleaner.

Do note that boiling water helps to sterilize it and partially remove what little contaminants are actually in it (there really isn’t much of anything in our water, all the scare-mongering stories aside). If you’re that concerned, though, a simple filtration system will produce all the clean water you need for cooking and drinking. Installing a house-wide filter on your water mains gets rid of that worry entirely — you’ll even be showering and washing your clothes with “bottled” water.

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avatar Yana

Thanks for the input, Willfe. I am trying to get as much info as I can, and have seen that Aquafina and Dasani are basically tap water. I saw another one online, I think called “Penta”. Very expensive, but basically manipulated tap water. I looked at Brita filters which claim to reduce chlorine, etc. Until I find a filter I like, I’m using Crystal Geyser, which does not have chlorine in it. A good filter would be great, though, because I can see that expanding our use of bottled water is a very expensive proposition.

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avatar lol

If you want to remove chlorine from water, pour it from tap 24-48 hours in advance before using it and just let it sit in an open container exposed to the air (in a clean place). The chlorine evaporates, many gardeners do this for sensitive plants.

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avatar Jordan Lund

Ever see a fat snake? Buy my snake oil!

Seriously though… now all we need is for Head-On to go away…

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avatar Alex

This is the patent tripe that those unfamiliar with the biochemstry. Vitamin C has a metabolic half-life of roughly half an hour. If it is coming out of your urine, that means it was previously in your blood where it was doing the most good, mopping up free radical damage. Here’s the thing. When severely sick, the body can utilize up to 200,000% of the “daily value” of Vitamin C. Virtually all animals save for primates, certain species of fish, and fruit eating bats produce their own vitamin C. We are lacking a single enzyme that prevents its manufacture from glucose, and our systems can utilize hundreds of _grams_ with no evidence of toxicity.

159 abstracts

a 1981 Protocol

Vitamin C selectively kills cancer cells?

36 years of scientific abstracts dealing with Vitamin C’s efficacy in treating a variety of diseases

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avatar Daniel Drucker

I just purchased a Dinosaur Repellant Rock last week. So far, so good!

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avatar Leighann

I actually have been taking 10,000 units of Vit C daily for 4 years now. I keep my body flooded at all times, knowing that this is a water soluable vitamin and excess will be expelled. I haven’t been ill, not even a cold, in years and I work in an overly heated office with recycled air full of people who get sick. I was always getting bronchitus, the flu, and pneumonia at least once a year, sometimes more and was “sick” and tired of it. I’ve had no ill effects that I am aware of, I’m 47 and my skin texture has also improved. I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, clinician, etc., but it works for me. I took Airborne on occasion but when I found out that it was basically a whopping dose of Vit C, I just switched to the vitamin.

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avatar Walter Q

I wonder. Anecdotal evidence does not count, I suppose, but then the placebo effect and a lot of hand washing seems to work for me. Since Airborne I haven’t walked a virus off an airplane, have managed to reduce the number of colds I get from about four or five a year to one every other year.If that’s just an od of vitamin c. then I will gladly o.d.

I do credit hand washing and a few habit changes with most of the relief, however, and do not take Airborne, unless I feel one coming on or am flying or doing a food expo.

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avatar Dog

What about the generic brands? Wal-Borne, etc???

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avatar Mrs. Micah

Interesting. Micah swears by plain old vitamins to boost your immune system if you might be coming down with something. He just takes a couple multivitamins and an extra vitamin C.

I wonder how different Airborne is. I think extra vitamins are less expensive.

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avatar people are dumb

I’m so glad that they have been caught for false advertising. For years I have wondered about the 6.99 product co-workers swear by that was developed by a teacher. oh joy! that’s almost as good as the birth control i use developed by a homeless bum and the heart medication developed by a local fireman.

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avatar Pfff.

…and don’t forget the natural male enhancement developed by Joe the Plumber.

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