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Combat Arms Ear Plug Design Flaw Known Since 2000

The product in question, dual-ended Combat Arms Ear Plugs (version 2), contained a design flaw that resulted in the ear plugs being too short for proper insertion into users’ ears, causing the earplugs to gradually loosen and not perform well for certain individuals. In July 2018, after a whistle blower stepped forward, Minnesota-based 3M agreed to pay a $9 million penalty to the federal government for failing to disclose the design flaw.

The whistleblower alleged the company knew about the design flaw as early as 2000 but continued to market and manufacture the ear plugs without disclosing it. The Combat Arms Ear Plugs were initially designed and manufactured by Aearo Technologies. The company was acquired by 3M in 2008.