South Korea president orders full investigation into Oxy

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : April 28, 2016, 14:16 | Updated : April 28, 2016, 14:16

Protesters trample on Oxy products. [Yonhap News Photo]

South Korean President Park Geun-hye ordered a thorough investigation Thursday into the deaths of dozens of pregnant women and infants who have used humidifiers containing a harmful substance.

The order came at a cabinet meeting chaired by Park who called for a "thorough" probe, the president's office said. "I feel really sad especially over the deaths of infants and toddlers," she was quoted as saying.

State prosecutors launched an investigation last week after the South Korean unit of a British firm apologized over the case, which was brought to light in 2011 when health authorities revealed a possible association between the use of humidifier disinfectants and serious lung ailment.

Consumer groups have accused Oxy Reckitt Benckiser Korea of falsely advertising its clear liquid disinfectant as safe.

In courts, the company has been involved in a series of suits with those suffering from lung damage. There was a wide gap in the total number of the victims because the victims failed to present any clear evidence supporting a direct causal relationship with the humidifier sterilizer including chemicals such as poly hexamethylene guanidine.

The company said it recognized "social responsibility" for deaths and diseases caused by its humidifier sterilizer but failed to acknowledge any clear wrongdoing.

Using its own tests, Oxy Reckitt Benckiser has unveiled a report saying its products were not harmful. The victims, however, insisted the investigation should focus on whether the company was aware of the disinfectant's harmfulness before selling its products.

Prosecutors have questioned officials from Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, the market leader in disinfectant sales in South Korea, to see if the company covered up the toxicity of disinfectants. There have been unconfirmed allegations that Oxy skipped a safety test despite a warning from experts.

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