SEOUL, July 5 (Korea Bizwire) – Consumer anxiety is growing in Korea with the recent discovery of nickel in Coway water purifiers. Coway is Korea’s leading manufacturer and rental service operator of water purifiers.
Although the company is maintaining its official stance that the amount of detected nickel is minimal and is harmless to the body, the Korean public does not seem to be convinced, especially with consumers on edge given the ongoing investigation into Oxy’s humidifier sterilizer scandal.
According to Coway and industry watchers, the issue was brought to light when consumers realized they were drinking ‘purified’ water containing nickel that had peeled off from the components of several Coway ice machines and water purifiers.
Nickel is a common substance used in a number of consumer products for plating, including water purifier components, faucets, and kettles. Small amounts of nickel are even found in nut products and green tea.
However, consumers are wondering how much of this metal, which is clearly visible to the naked eye, is okay to be consumed, especially with no safety standards in place to provide more professional guidance.
“We believe there is no standard for nickel consumption in Korea,” said a Coway official. “However, after comparing with overseas standards, we decided that the amount of nickel of concern is not harmful.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, limits daily consumption of nickel to 0.5mg. According to Coway, after an analysis of 1,000 samples, the amount of detected metal was between one-tenth and one-twentieth of the EPA standard.
But consumers remain skeptical, and point to nickel’s status as a heavy metal and potential health complications when consumed periodically in larger quantities. They have also criticized Coway for keeping the issue under wraps and out of view of the general public after the first consumer complaint was filed in July 2015.
The toxic humidifier sterilizer case resulted in as many as 701 fatalities, according to a July 4 report by the Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health and Humidifier Sterilizer Damages and Victims’ Organization. And just like humidifiers, water purifiers are also products used on a daily basis, which is exacerbating the spreading of anxiety among consumers.
Following an increasing number of complaints, the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (under the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy) stepped forward to investigate Coway’s products for potential defects and health implications.
“I don’t think releasing a statement that says ‘consuming a small amount of nickel is okay’ is the best approach for the company to handle the situation,” said a 33-year-old female officer worker, Kim Seon-hyeong, who has a child. “There’s much to be learned from the Oxy case, where the company tried to bury their product’s flaws with too much confidence in their market share.”
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)