Q-Ray Bracelet Marketed with Preposterous Claims

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

QT, Inc., of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, markets "ionized" bracelets claimed to benefit people by balancing the body's flow of "electromagnetic energy." It is said to have been invented in 1973 by Manuel L. Polo, a chiropractor living on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

In 1997 and 1998, the manufacturer's Web site stated:

 

The Q-RAY bracelet is designed to achieve many of the same goals as traditional Chinese acupuncture. Acupuncture was developed to balance the body's Yin (negative ions) and Yang (positive ions), the two inseparable, complementary energies that permanently circulate in the human body. When these energies become unbalanced, the body's functioning is thought to be altered—which can be at least very annoying and at worst debilitating, depending on the size and nature of the energy imbalance. Oriental medicine, through acupuncture, is believed to regulate these two energies, discharging from the body excess positive ions and providing access to blocked negative ions, by stimulating meridian acupuncture points.

In the human body, which is electromagnetic by nature, biomagnetic alpha and beta waves circulate throughout the vital centers. When the flow is cut off and these alpha and beta waves become stagnant in one particular area of the body, bioelectrical alterations and ionic imbalances can result. Designed by Dr. Polo with polarized multi-metallic metals, the Q-RAY bracelet's circular form and spherical terminals offer low resistance to the bioelectrical conductibility of the alpha and beta waves, facilitating the discharge of excess positive ions or static electricity. Excess of positive ions is associated with poor nutrition, incorrect breathing, sedentary life style, and the use of electrical instruments or exposure to EMF (Electronic Magnetic Field). Loss of negative ions is associated with symptoms such as anxiety, stress, fear, hatred, and physical exhaustion.

The Q-RAY bracelet's effectiveness is grounded in the phenomenon of radioelectrical "Resonance." balancing of positive and negative ions within the human body. Because of its unique characteristics and specialized configuration, the bracelet is considered to be an excellent Resonator of electromagnetic waves. The first investigations into the science behind the Resonator were initiated by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. The Resonator designed by Hertz consisted of a metal spiral with a condenser on each end. Building on the works of Faraday and Maxwell, Hertz determined the precise longitudes of electromagnetic waves. It is not known whether Hertz investigated the applications of the Resonator on the human body. Manuel L. Polo, however, focused on improving human life through the proper balancing of positive and negative ions within the human body [1].

For several years, QT, Inc., claimed that its bracelets could restore health, relieve cancer pain, improve muscle flexibility, improve sports performance, restore energy, and provide other health benefits. It was also claimed to "energize your whole body instantly. In 2000, an infomercial stated: "When you have a severe injury or a chronic injury or a chronic problem like arthritis, you have build-up of positive ions, wherever that is you are going to have pain. In order to remove this pain, Q-Ray bracelet rips it right out of the body!"

In December 2000, its Web site stated:

Q-Ray ionized bracelet regulates the imbalance of both positive and negative ions in your body the Natural Way.

Our bodies run on electrical energy. It is this electrical current that moves through our nervous system and controls every aspect of our body. As long as this flow of energy remains unimpeded, it is believed that we remain physically and mentally balanced and therefore, in good health. In order for the electrical energy to flow normally the negative and positive ions, the yin and yang, must be balanced. Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet is engineered to discharge positive Ions and restore the Ying-Yang balance.

When injury or chronic conditions impede this flow, the body can begin to generate an overabundance of positive ions which offsets the balance of our electrical system.

Studies have shown that naturally, increased strength, restored energy, better endurance, and a greater sense of health and well-being [2].

The above descriptions of bodily electrical energy flow are nonsense. Ions exist in solution throughout the body. There is no such thing as an "ionized bracelet," because solid objects are not ionized. There is no such thing as an ionic imbalance of the body, and no scientifically recognized connection between allegedly "ionized" objects and pain relief. Furthermore, the Q-Ray bracelet has no power source. So even if "ionic imbalance" could exist, the claim that the Q-Ray could influence the body's "electrical energy" supply is preposterous.

QT, Inc., claims that its bracelets can be tested by testing finger strength before and after wearing one. While the person being tested holds his or her right thumb and forefinger together, in another person applies steady pressure to pull them apart. Then the object or substance being tested in placed in contact with the subject's body and the test is repeated. If the finger's are harder to pull apart during the second test, whatever has been applied is said to have been working. This test, called the O-Ring test or the Omura test, is said to have been devised during the 1970s by a Japanese doctor named Yoshiaki Omura. Proponents claim that it works through changes in "electronic energy." [3] However, the most likely explanation is either that the tester varies the force or the subject gets "weaker" or "stronger" in response to suggestion.

In 2002, researchers from the Mayo Clinic published the results of a 4-week study involving 710 participants who wore either a Q-Ray bracelet (said to be "ionized") or an identical-looking placebo bracelet (said to be "non-ionized"). Subjective improvement in pain scores was equivalent in both groups [4], which indicates that the bracelet exerted no special effect.

Consumer Protection Actions

In 2000, the Consumer Justice Center sued QT, Inc., and its owners for false advertising [5]. The suit was settled with a nondisclosure agreement. I provided an expert declaration in the case but do not know the settlement terms. However, it is safe to assume that the settlement agreement included payment and a pledge to stop making most of the claims that the suit challenged. A class-action suit is pending [6], and a false advertising suit is pending against the marketers of a similar device called the Balance Bracelet [7].

In June 2003, the FTC charged QT, Inc, Q-Ray Company, Bio-Metal, Inc., and their principals, Que Te (Andrew) Park and Jung Joo Park, with false advertising, and the federal district court in Chicago issued a temporary restraining order freezing their assets and prohibiting further use of misleading claims [8].

In May 2004, the FTC filed a similar suit against Balance Bracelet marketers Media Maverick, Inc., of San Luis Obispo, California, and its officers Mark Jones and Charles Cody [9]. Among other things, the company's Web site had claimed:

The Balance Bracelet is designed to aid the body in helping itself through electro-polarization. This helps the body return to its normal ionic balance. The Balance Bracelet acts on the body absorbing the static electricity that causes changes in different parts of the body.

In September 2006, the Chicago court sided with the FTC and ordered Que Te Park and his companies to turn over $22.5 million in net profits and provide up to $64.5 million more in refunds to consumers who had bought the bracelets [11]. During the trial, Park testified that he could not define the term "ionization" but picked it because it was simple and easy to remember. The court concluded that his testimony on ionization was "contradictory and full of obfuscation" and that "he is a clever marketer but a poor witness." Park also acknowledged that QT had at least a 25% refund rate from dissatisfied customers (more than 100,000 people) [12]. In January 2008, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court in an opinion which stated that the marketers had "made statements about Q-Rays, ionization, and bio-energy that they knew to be poppycock." [13] Curiously, when the Chicago Tribune reported this decision on its Web site, the page had Google ad links to five Web sites that marketed Q-Ray bracelets.

The Bottom Line

The Q-Ray bracelet is a line of costume jewelry that has been claimed to relieve pain and to provide various health benefits. It is claimed to work by balancing "energy" that cannot be measured with scientific instrumentation. Its supposed mechanism of "ionic" action is preposterous. The only published scientific study of the device found that it had no special effect against pain. Its marketing claims were greatly toned down by a private consumer protection lawsuit filed in California, but I believe that the manufacturer still exaggerates what the bracelet can do. The Balance Bracelet has been marketed with claims that were equally false.

Reference

  1. About Q-Ray/Bio-Ray. QT, Inc, Web site, archived Dec 22, 1997.
  2. About Q-Ray. QT, Inc, Web site, archived Dec 8, 2000.
  3. Yamamoto S. The formation and basis of the bi-digital O-Ring test. Feb 26, 2002.
  4. Bratton RL and others. Effect of "ionized" wrist bracelets on musculoskeletal pain: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 77:1164-1168, 2002.
  5. Consumer Justice Center v Q.T., Inc., Andrew Park, Jung Joo Park, Que Te Park, Lizz Ciprian, and Does 1-100.
  6. Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Orange, Central Justice Center, Case No. 00CC14710, Filed Dec 7, 2000.
  7. John Gardner v QT Inc. and Does 1-50. Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, North County Branch. Case No. GIN026037. Amended complaint filed Jan 13, 2003.
  8. William Pate v Media Maverick, Mark Jobes, and Does 1-100. 50. Superior Court of the State of California, County of Orange, Central Judicial District. Case No. 03CC05796, Filed April 21, 2003.
  9. Marketers of Q-Ray ionized bracelet charged by FTC: FTC seeks to halt deceptive pain relief claims and provide consumer refunds. FTC news release, June 2, 2003.
  10. FTC Challenges claims that the "Balance Bracelet" relieves pain. FTC news release, May 18, 2004.
  11. Court rules in FTC's favor in Q-Ray bracelet case; orders defendants to pay up to $87 million. FTC news release, Sept 20, 2006.
  12. Denlow M. Memorandum opinion and order. FTC v QT, Inc, Q-Ray Company, Biometal, Inc., Que Te Park, a.k.a. Andrew Q. Park, and Jung Joo Park. U.S. District Court for the Northern Division of Illinois, Eastern Division, Case No. 1:03-cv-03578, Filed Sept 8, 2006.
  13. Easterbrook, Bauer and Williams. Opinion. FTC v QT, Inc, Q-Ray Company, Bio-Metal, Inc., and Que Te Park. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Case No. 07-1662, Decided Jan 3, 2008.

This article was revised on January 6, 2008.