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Fitbit Recalls Force Fitness Tracker Over Skin Irritation

The Fitbit Force (Image credit: Video Screengrab/YouTube/CNETTV)

The fitness tracker maker Fitbit is recalling its Force wristband after user complaints about skin irritation.

The $130 Fitbit Force hit the market late last year and was designed to be worn around the wrist to monitor daily activity levels. Earlier this year, some Force users came forward with stories about unsightly skin rashes and contact dermatitis blamed on their tracker.

At the time, Fitbit apologized and began offering refunds and replacements to people who experienced skin reactions after wearing the Force. But on Thursday (Feb. 20), Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park announced the voluntary recall of the product. [The Best Fitness Trackers 2014]

Park said 1.7 percent of users had reported skin irritation, according to the company's analysis. Test results suggested rashes weren't caused by the fitness tracker's battery or electrical systems, he added, but were likely the result of allergic contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is a kind of skin inflammation that can be caused by touching an irritant like hair dye or other chemicals. It can also be caused by an allergic reaction to a usually innocuous substance like nickel — an ingredient in the Force's metal parts. Contact dermatitis often clears up without any complications, but some users had claimed they developed skin infections after a blister formed on the rash.

"All Force materials are commonly used in consumer products," Park said in a statement. "However, some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel used in the device. Other users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product."

Fitbit will no longer sell the Force and it has set up a website to deal with refunds and returns. Park also promised that the company would announce news about their next-generation tracker soon.

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Megan Gannon
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.