Six sterilizers for humidifiers recalled

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Six sterilizers for humidifiers recalled

The Ministry of Health and Welfare confirmed that certain sterilizers for humidifiers were the possible cause of death for 28 people who died of pulmonary fibrosis and ordered a mandatory recall of six brands yesterday.

The recall comes after the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Nov. 4 strongly warned against the use of any brand of sterilizers for humidifiers, after preliminary test results on mice showed that they suffered from the same pulmonary fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs, that has mysteriously killed four pregnant women.

Final test results conducted by the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology showed that six brands of humidifier sterilizers contained hazardous substances and warranted a recall: Hanvit Chemical, Butterfly Effect, Atorganic, Glomn and two products from YongMa Industry.

Mice that were administered Hanvit’s Oxi-ssakssak and Butterfly Effect’s Sepyu sterilizers experienced among other symptoms difficulty breathing as well as infection in the bronchiole region.

The principal ingredients in the recalled sterilizers are antibacterial agents polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHPG) phosphate and oligo (2-(2-ethoxy) ethoxyethyl guanidinium chloride. The two ingredients have been considered to be less toxic than other antibacterial agents when consumed or in contact with the skin and are used not only in humidifier sterilizers but in shampoos, wet tissues and other antibacterial products.

However, there had not been any research until now on the effects of inhaling the agents.

“Humidifier sterilizers have not been considered a medical product until now and have been sold as an industrial product, hence we have not been able to monitor it,” Jun Byung-yool, director of the KCDC, said yesterday. “Starting next month, we plan to classify all humidifier sterilizers as medical products.”

The KCDC began animal testing in late September after suspicions arose in late August that sterilizers were the mysterious cause of the pneumonia and pulmonary fibrosis.

The sterilizers have been blamed for at least 91 cases of illness, out of which 28 people have died after developing pulmonary fibrosis.


By Park Yu-mi [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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