Justice delayed is justice deniedProsecutors embarked on an investigation into manufacturers of humidifier sterilizers after health authorities concluded in 2011 that they could have caused the deaths of dozens, or even hundreds, of people. It is up to the prosecution to come up with legally verifiable scientific evidence to prove the connection between the toxic agents used in the dehumidifiers and the lung diseases that caused hundreds to become ill or die.
The Seoul District Central Prosecution Office’s special investigation team on the case will start summoning manufacturers from next week. The probe will focus on determining whether the manufacturers knew of the hazardous effects of the sterilizing agents when they produced and marketed them and the thoroughness of their safety tests.
Since the special team was organized in January, it has interviewed over 200 victims and their families and seized materials and evidence from the workplaces of manufacturers and retailers. It also has been investigating the possibility that a study, carried out by a university on behalf of a manufacturer, Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, and used as evidence in ruling out a causal relationship between humidifier disinfectants and respiratory damages, could have been fabricated.
The official death toll from humidifier sterilizers is at 143. Three more died while government investigations were ongoing. Families are enraged to have lost loved ones as a result of naïve confidence in a product label meant to ensure the safety of sterilizers on the human body. Manufacturers have never once taken accountability and apologized. Law enforcement officials have picked up speed in the investigation only recently, even though the victims filed charges in 2012. Families and victims had to go through the ordeal of visiting one hospital after another to determine the cause of their illness.
Justice delayed is justice denied. The prosecution must make amends by doing all it can to scientifically prove and answer for these suspicions and allegations. Its existence would be in serious question if a law enforcement office cannot safeguard the people’s lives and safety.
JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 6, Page 30