Hoaxes & Rumors

Chemical Burns from Walmart Flip Flops: True or False?

Chemical Burns from Walmart Flip Flops: True or False?

An online warning claims that chemical burns or rashes are a possible result from Chinese-made flip flops sold by Walmart. Is this true or false?

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The story is true, but it happened back in 2007.

The photos and narrative which have circulated online for the past several years are usually traced back to an incident reported by Kerry Stiles from Florida. Her account is summarized in the following manner: “I bought a pair of cheap flip flops from Walmart. I got what appears to be chemical burns from them.”

In June 2007, not long after purchasing a pair of $2.44 flip flops from Walmart, she developed a rash or burn on her feet which mirrored the part of the foot touched by the sandal. After feeling “blown off” by her initial contact with Walmart, the customer decided to post a website detailing her ordeal. “I put up these pages because I was feeling a bit betrayed after their attempted dismissal…”

Stiles also said that Walmart told her that she could expect a call from the Chinese supplier of the sandals, and that she could call the supplier herself if they hadn’t called within 10 days.

A September 2007 report noted that “Wal-mart stores across the country are pulling flip-flops made in china after customers complained of rashes or burns developed on their feet.” This story stated that a Texas woman reported similar effects as Kerry Stiles from Florida.

Ms. Stiles’ ordeal ended up on a 2014 list on Cracked.com called “The 6 Most Horrifying Product Recalls in China.”

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Others Affected

Walmart stated at the time that there had been 10 complaints and that they were looking into the matter. The website run by Ms. Stiles, however, contained a page with numerous reader complaints of similar incidents.

Fox reported that, although Walmart had sold millions of the flip flips, the chain stopped selling the sandals after several complaints. Dr. Nanette Silverberg discussed with Fox the reason only a small number of wearers experienced such dramatic breakouts. “Not everyone in the population is that allergic. That would account for why there are not thousands of cases. You don’t want to go out and buy another pair of flip-flops if you don’t know what’s really wrong.”

2009 Incident

Two years after the Florida incident, an Oklahoma grandmother contacted local media to warn parents about burns that her granddaughter received after wearing a pair of shoes purchased at Walmart.

When the woman talked to the local Walmart manager, the shoes were pulled from the shelves. It was pointed out, however, that unless there is a recall, the products would be put back on the shelves.

Bottom Line

The report of Chinese made flip flops from Walmart causing rashes or burns did happen to several people back in 2007. There have not, however, been widespread reports mirroring this woman’s experience in the years since.

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