SEOUL, May 2 (Korea Bizwire) — The Korean government announced that it will re-examine potential health damages to the respiratory system and other organs from humidifier disinfectants.
The Ministry of Environment’s Humidifier Disinfectant Investigations Committee revealed that it will study the possibility of rhinitis, bronchitis, and other potential non-pulmonary damages resulting from humidifier disinfectants, and establish damage standards for adjudication.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office also stated that it would re-evaluate the case upon the Ministry’s request or submission of additional information regarding the case.
The Prosecutors’ Office is currently investigating products that contain PHMG (polyhexamethylene guanidine hydrochloride) and PGH (oligo-(2-(2-ethoxy)-ethoxyethyl)-guanidinium-chloride), which are proven lung-damaging components. Products from Lotte Mart, Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, Homeplus, and Butterfly Effect have been investigated so far.
“If the government officially requests an additional investigation, we will consider taking a closer look at products that contain other components such as CMIT (chloromethylisothiazolinone) and MIT (methylisothiazolinone),” said the official. Products from Aekyung, E-mart, and GS Retail contain such components.
The Prosecutors’ Office obtained evidence that Oxy Reckitt Benckiser neglected to conduct safety tests on its products despite being aware of health damages caused by PHMG hydrochloride. Three officials from Oxy Reckitt Benckiser and Hanvit Chemical are being summoned today for further investigation.
Oxy Reckitt Benckiser was the main company of concern in a 2011 investigation into humidifier disinfectants, after dozens of people including many infants were killed. Some speculate the total number of victims to be in the hundreds.
The company made an official apology today for the first time in the five years since the initial investigation during a press conference at Conrad Seoul Yeouido, which turned to chaos after protests from victims and their families. Oxy Reckitt Benckiser did release an ‘email apology’ on April 21, which did little to quell anger at the company, and actually fuelled further public outrage.
According the Prosecutors’ Office, however, the release of the disinfectant products causing the deaths dates before March 2001, prior to Reckitt Benckiser’s acquisition of Oxy. As such, some say that Reckitt Benckiser was not entirely obliged to conduct safety tests on its products.
It would still be difficult for Reckitt Benckiser to avoid all responsibility if it allowed the products to be sold despite knowing that they had not undergone proper testing.
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)