Manufacturing giant 3M finds itself in hot water as military veterans across the US fight back against the company, claiming 3M knowingly sold the military defective earplugs. In July the Justice Department settled a lawsuit with 3M in regards to the allegations that the Combat Arms Dual Sided earplugs possess “dangerous design defects” and 3M knowingly sold these earplugs to the government for over a decade. Service members unaware of the design defect,used these earplugs in both combat and non combat zones. They trusted the earplugs to protect their faculties from dangerously loud noises common to military members. The result of the flawed earplugs: mass service member suffering.
CBS News interviewed two U.S. Army veterans currently filing civil complaints against 3M; both suffer from partial hearing loss and tinnitus from the defective earplugs. Tinnitus, otherwise described as ringing in the ears, has caused significant hardship for two young men. Both Joseph Junk and David Henderson depended on the 3M earplugs to protect their hearing throughout training and combat. Now due to the flawed earplugs, Junk, like Henderson, struggles with painful tinnitus, and remarked he doesn’t know what “quiet” means to him anymore.
Junk stated that service members are told to rely on their equipment for protection, that it’s the best. Junk said he and his fellow soldiers were told that these earplugs were “gonna save your hearing…Later on, we found out that it didn’t really protect our hearing that much at all.”
In a joint lawsuit filed by a 3M competitor and the government, they alleged that 3M sold the dual sided earplugs to the military knowing that they manipulated the plug fitting instructions and safety testing procedures. They asserted that 3M sold the government these earplugs from 2003 to 2015 without revealing the design flaw to the military.
Henderson, who served in the military for about six years, said "It wasn't an omission. It wasn't something missed. It was deliberately lying to gain money and hurting our service members.”
While the earplugs have been discontinued, 3M still denies that they knowingly designed the earplugs with a defect, relying on their history of manufacturing products for the U.S. military to back their claims. However, Henderson’s first-hand account speaks for itself:
From what I remember, guys would put them in and, like, they had bigger ear canals so it would go all the way in and sort of get stuck in there or you had guys that would put them in and still be able to hear everything…
Even if 3M owns up to the design flaw and releases an apology, words cannot bring back what has already been taken from servicemembers like Junk and Henderson: healthy hearing and peace of mind.
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