Just like many large companies, Walmart has its share of controversy. The mega-store is often the target of public criticism for issues like predatory pricing, paying low worker wages, forcing employees to work in poor conditions, and becoming infamous for understaffed stores.
Along with this history of bad practices, Walmart can now add a defective product recall to the list.
In early November, Walmart issued a product recall of the Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones. The company recalled about 3,900 bottles of the room spray in six different scents after discovering the presence of a rare and dangerous bacteria linked to two deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested a version of the product and discovered that it contained the dangerous bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. This bacteria causes melioidosis, an infectious disease that can affect both humans and animals as well as contaminate water and soil.
What is Burkholderia pseudomallei?
Burkholderia pseudomallei is a rare and dangerous bacteria. It causes diseases that infect humans and animals, results in similar clinical symptoms, and is antibiotic-resistant. Burkholderia pseudomallei is commonly known as the bacteria responsible for causing the disease known as melioidosis.
Melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, is a bacterial infection mainly found in tropical climates. People can contract melioidosis by breathing in contaminated dust or water, drinking and eating things that have come in contact with the bacteria, and through skin contact with contaminated dust or water.
What are the symptoms of melioidosis?
Melioidosis infections can either be mild or very serious. You can have a specific infection in a particular area of your body, or not have any symptoms at all. The disease can also affect parts of your body like your lungs and your bloodstream, either individually or at the same time. If left untreated, it can become fatal. Because melioidosis can infect almost any organ, it can be mistaken for other diseases like pneumonia.
When a melioidosis infection is localized, it usually affects a particular area of the skin. Some of the symptoms you can have from a melioidosis infection are pain and swelling in the localized area, fever, sores, and pus-filled areas. If a melioidosis infection is in the lungs, you may experience headaches, chest pains, coughs, high fever, and a loss of appetite.
If your infection is located in the bloodstream, you may experience symptoms like headaches, fever, discomfort in the belly area, confusion, trouble breathing, and joint pain. Overall melioidosis symptoms include weight loss, muscle or joint pain, fever, stomach or chest pain, seizures, headaches, or an infection in the central nervous system or the brain.
How does melioidosis spread?
It is unlikely that the infection can be transmitted from human to human. However, the infection may be able to be transmitted to infants through human milk or while a baby is still in the womb; however, this is very rare. Studies have shown that the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei can exist for months or even years in soil or water.
Some disinfectants like glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde can partially eliminate the bacteria. Sunlight and heat may also be able to kill the bacteria. Doctors can diagnose a melioidosis infection through a blood test, urine sample, throat swab, and skin lesion test.
How did the CDC discover this bacteria in the room spray?
Earlier this year, there were four melioidosis cases in Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas. Two of the infected people died, one of whom was a child. After the CDC began investigating the cases, the agency discovered that the four melioidosis cases were caused by the same strain of Burkholderia pseudomallei.
After the bacteria was tested in soil, water, and other products in and near the homes of the patients, CDC investigators identified the bacteria in one of the Better Homes and Gardens room sprays in the Georgia victim’s home, leading to the national recall. Samples taken from the bottle of the room spray in the home of the Georgia victim contained the presence of the dangerous bacteria.
Additional testing by the CDC discovered that the genetic fingerprint of the bacteria in the bottle matched the genetic fingerprint of the bacteria identified in the four victims.
How long were the Walmart room sprays on the market?
Although Walmart stopped selling the product, the now-recalled items were sold from February to October 2021 for four dollars. Each aromatherapy room spray was sold in a five-ounce glass bottle, contained a pump spray nozzle, with little gems inside the bottle. The room spray was sold at about 55 Walmart stores nationwide and online at Walmart.com. Further investigation discovered that the product was manufactured in India.
What should consumers do if they have the recalled aromatherapy room sprays?
If you purchased any of the recalled aromatherapy room sprays, the CPSC and the CDC advise you to stop using the product immediately. Do not attempt to throw the bottle away or open it. Instead, double bag the spray in clear, zip lock bags and then place it in a cardboard box. You can then take the spray back to a Walmart store and return it, where you can also receive a $20 gift card. The CPSC and the CDC also recommend that washing any sheets or linens that were sprayed with the product like you regularly would, along with drying them in a hot dryer.
Whether it’s a pair of sunglasses that failed to protect your eyes, an electric blanket that caught fire, or brakes that failed to make your car stop, the Chicago product liability lawyers at Gainsberg Law P.C. can help you get justice. For help now, please phone us at 312-600-9585 or submit a contact form to schedule an appointment.
Neal S. Gainsberg has spent the last 20 years fighting to protect the rights of the injured in Chicago and throughout Illinois. From consumer rights and bankruptcy to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death, Mr. Gainsberg stands up to large corporations, insurance companies, creditors and hospital administrators to ensure that his clients’ futures are safe and secure. Learn More