California Company to Settle FTC Charges
That It Made False, Unsubstantiated Claims
for Its Radon-Removal Device
FTC News Release
May 4, 1993
Ion Systems, Inc., of Berkeley, California, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made several false and unsubstantiated representations about the ability of its "NO-RAD Radon Removal System" to remove the harmful by-products of radon gas from homes, and to reduce the risk of cancer associated with radon byproducts. Under the proposed settlement, Ion Systems would be prohibited from making the allegedly false representations or unsubstantiated performance claims for the NO-RAD System or any similar device in the future, or from knowingly selling components of the system to others who make unsubstantiated performance claims about them.
Radon — an odorless, invisible radioactive gas — is a by-product of the breakdown of uranium in the soil. According to a consumer brochure published by the Environmental Protection Agency, radon typically moves up through the ground to the air level and seeps into enclosed spaces, such as homes, through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Once the gas leaks into the enclosed space, the EPA brochure states, it can build up, creating harmful radon byproducts. It is these byproducts, according to EPA, that pose the health risks associated with radon, such as lung cancer.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, Ion Systems advertised and sold the NO-RAD System to the public, and also sells and distributes components for use by third parties in the manufacture of NO-RAD Systems. Advertisements and promotional materials for the NO-RAD System have contained the following statements, among others:
- "Tested by the Harvard University School of Public Health, this compact floor unit removes up to 90% of the dangerous radon decay particles in your home."
- "The NO-RAD Radon Removal System was developed by Drs Moeller, Maher, and Rudnick at the School of Public Health, Harvard University, in collaboration with Ion Systems, Inc. The NO-RAD System is the only system that has been proven in their laboratory and field tests to be up to 90% effective in removing both attached and unattached radon decay products and in reducing the associated dose to the lungs. … Proven effective in removing 90% of the radon decay product concentrations."
Through these statements and others, the FTC charged, Ion Systems represented that:
- tests prove that the NO-RAD System removes up to 90 percent of the radon decay products in the home;
- tests prove that the NO-RAD System reduces the user's risk of developing radon-related lung cancer by up to 90 percent; and
- the NO-RAD System had been tested and proven effective by the Harvard University School of Public Health.
The FTC alleged that these representations are all false and misleading.
Ion Systems also allegedly represented in its advertisements that in an appreciable number of cases under normal circumstances, the NO-RAD System reduces 90 percent or close to 90 percent of radon decay products in the home and also reduces the user's risk of developing radon-related lung cancer by that same percentage.
Ion Systems did not have a reasonable basis to support these representations, the FTC charged.
The proposed consent agreement to settle the FTC charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit the company from making the specifically-alleged false representations cited above. Ion Systems also would be prohibited from misrepresenting the contents, validity, results, conclusions or interpretations of any test or study with respect to the NO-RAD System or any other radon-remediation device. Further, the proposed order would require the company to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate representations it makes about any performance characteristics of any radon-remediation device.
In addition, if Ion Systems represents that this type of device will remove or reduce radon-decay products by any quantitative amount, the proposed order would require the company to affirmatively disclose that the percentage reduction in the risk of lung cancer will always be less than the percentage reduction of radon-decay products. The proposed order sets out requirements to ensure that the disclosure is clear and prominent.
Finally, the order would prohibit the company from selling or distributing any components of the NO-RAD System or any similar device to any entity that it knows or has reason to know is making unsubstantiated representations about any performance characteristic of the devices.
The Commission unanimously voted to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment.
- Civil Action No. 90-6660 (Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division). FTC File No. 902-3163. FTC Matter No. X90-0057. FTC Docket No. C-3451.
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This page was posted on August 27, 2006.