The Worst Product Recalls of All Time
Companies that manufacture products have a responsibility to make sure their products don’t pose a safety hazard to the general public. This is true no matter what type of product a company makes. Ideally, unsafe and defective products would never become available to the general public. But the reality is that dangerous products do get sold to consumers. The majority of recalled products are recalled as a precautionary measure, before anyone is injured by them. But other recalls have been much more significant. In the worst case scenarios, recalled products are linked to many deaths and injuries and involve millions of products sold worldwide. Here are just a few of the largest product recalls to ever happen in the United States.
When over three million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags were recalled in April 2013, it was just the beginning of what would become the largest and most complicated auto safety recall in U.S. history. A series of similar recalls followed and, as of May 2016, the number of recalled vehicles had grown to over 50 million vehicles — and that number is still growing. Since Takata was a major supplier of airbags in the automotive industry, vehicles from nearly every major automaker have been recalled.
The issue with these airbags from Takata is they contain a propellant that, under certain circumstances, can cause the airbags to deploy with explosive force and send shards of metal flying onto occupants of the vehicle. These airbags have been linked to 10 deaths and over 100 injuries, commonly to the head and neck.
A major Tylenol recall in 1982 is the reason why we now have tamper-evident packaging for food, pharmaceutical, and over-the-counter medical products. In 1982, the nation was sent into a panic when seven people in the Chicago area died after taking Tylenol. Authorities later discovered that the Tylenol taken by the victims had been laced with cyanide.
It’s believed that the bottles had been tampered with while they were on store shelves. However, Johnson & Johnson didn’t take any chances and spent millions of dollars recalling Tylenol products from stores across the country. After the incident, the FDA ordered that certain products, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, be packaged in tamper-evident packaging and implemented other regulations to prevent product tampering, which continue to help keep products safe to this day. No charges or convictions were ever made against anyone in relation to the Tylenol poisonings, although the FBI does occasionally investigate new leads related to the case.
Ford Explorers / Firestone Tires
In 1990, SUVs were a relatively uncommon sight on American roadways, but by the end of the decade, they accounted for nearly 20% of all vehicles on the road. The Ford Explorer was one of the most popular SUVs in America during this time, but by the year 2000, the car was under fire for coming equipped with Firestone tires that were linked to an alarmingly high rate of tread separation, which would cause tire blowouts and rollover accidents.
The defective tires were linked to nearly 175 deaths and 700 injuries. Over 6 million tires were recalled, but neither company was willing to accept responsibility for the tires. Ford and Firestone blamed each other and the incident put an end to a 100-year-long partnership between the companies.
It’s no secret that exposure to lead is extremely dangerous. Lead paint been banned from being used in American households since 1978 because of the health problems it can cause in people, particularly if chips of paint are ingested. Since children have a tendency to put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t, it’s particularly important that products used by children not be made with paint that has high levels of lead. In 2007, Mattel was forced to recall about 9 million of their products after it was discovered the toys were manufactured with surface paint that contained levels of lead that exceeded the legal limit.