Jessica Alba's Honest Company Faces Proposed Class-Action Lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges the company "deceptively marketed" some products.

ByABC News
March 30, 2016, 1:33 PM

— -- Jessica Alba’s billion-dollar Honest Company is under fire again.

The popular home and personal care products company is being hit with a proposed class-action lawsuit that alleges the company “deceptively marketed” cleaning products, including dish soap and laundry detergent.

The lawsuit alleges the company falsely advertised the products as “honestly free” of sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), an ingredient the lawsuit claims “causes health problems for some.”

The company -- which Alba co-founded in 2011 after she developed a rash during her first pregnancy and went looking for non-toxic household products -- called the allegations “without merit” in a statement to ABC News.

“The Honest Company takes its responsibility to our consumers seriously and strongly stands behind our products,” the statement reads. “These allegations are without merit.”

Last month, a Wall Street Journal investigation included two independent lab tests that found SLS in The Honest Company’s laundry detergent.

At the time of the investigation, The Honest Company called the newspaper "reckless."

“The Wall Street Journal has been reckless in the preparation of this article, refused multiple requests to share data on which they apparently relied and has substituted junk science for credible journalism,” according to a statement provided to ABC News by Honest.

Subsequent reporting by The Wall Street Journal said that while Honest laundry detergent bottles note the product does not contain SLS, the company that produces the Honest detergent removed that claim from its website last year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says exposure to SLS may cause a cough or sore throat if inhaled; nausea, vomiting or diarrhea if ingested; and redness if exposed to skin or eyes.

The CDC also says “repeated or prolonged contact with skin may cause dermatitis,” or skin inflammation.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, said today on "Good Morning America" that, in his research, he has found SLS to be safe when used correctly.

"The Food and Drug Administration has evaluated it for food and as long as it’s at the right concentration, it’s safe," Besser said. "The panel that looks at things for cosmetics, the same thing."

"For a lot of chemicals, it’s not whether at high doses it’s a problem, it’s whether at the level that it’s supposed to be used at it causes problems," he added. "That doesn’t mean that some people won’t have skin sensitivity and, if you have that, then you want to avoid those products."

Alba’s company was hit with a $5 million class-action lawsuit filed by a customer last September that claimed the brand "deceptively and misleadingly labeled and marketed its products." The suit also claimed the company's sunscreen is ineffective.

The suit, filed in Northern California District Court, alleged that several items, including the brand's hand soap, dish soap, multi-surface cleaner and diapers, were marketed as having only natural ingredients, but in reality also have "unnatural" ingredients, some of which include "a synthetic preservative" and "a synthetic surfactant" and a petrochemical-based additive in the diapers.

Alba called the lawsuit's claims "baseless and without merit" in a statement to ABC News at the time.

Besser advised consumers to check with their doctors if they have questions about specific chemicals in products.

"If you see these rumors on the Internet, you want to print them out," he said. "If there’s any chemicals listed on a product that you’re concerned about, print them out and take them into your doctor."