SNU professor claims he briefed Oxy on harm

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SNU professor claims he briefed Oxy on harm

The Seoul National University professor arrested for allegedly taking bribes and writing favorable reports for Reckitt Benckiser Korea claimed that he reported to the company and its British headquarters of the harmful effects of Oxy humidifier sterilizers a few years ago, and that Reckitt Benckiser Korea manipulated his report.

“Professor Cho Myung-haing [of Seoul National University College of Veterinary Medicine] reported on reproductive toxicity of Oxy sterilizer products to Reckitt Benckiser officials, the then-CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Korea and lawyers of Kim & Jang in 2011,” said Cho’s lawyer Kim Jong-min of Dongin Law Group at a press conference in front of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office on Sunday.

The reproductive toxicity report contained test results that showed that 13 out of 15 baby mice died in their mother’s womb when the mother inhaled Oxy humidifier sterilizer.

Kim said that Reckitt Benckiser Korea asked the professor and his team to forget the reproductive toxicity test results and conduct a second test on inhalation toxicity.

The second test reported that it could not find evidence that Oxy humidifier sterilizers caused pulmonary illnesses, but that systemic toxicity of the product needed to be further tested.

According to Kim, Cho is arguing that the Oxy manufacturer took the raw data of Seoul National University’s tests and manipulated it, deleting sections of the report saying the sterilizer was harmful.

Oxy humidifier sterilizers contained polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHMG), fatal to humans when inhaled or consumed. Of some 140 deaths from humidifier sterilizers reported to state-run health institutes, Oxy caused the highest number of deaths, according to the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health, a civic group.

Cho was arrested on Wednesday and faces charges of taking bribes to produce research guaranteeing the safety of the company’s sterilizers.

“There is enough evidence that Cho manipulated the reports, and that’s why we arrested him,” said a prosecution official.

After prosecutors established a special investigation team early this year to look into the fatal products, the Oxy manufacturer submitted reports to disprove government tests linking pulmonary illnesses and deaths to the inhalation of fatal chemicals in several brands of humidifier sterilizers.

Cho had written reports for the Oxy manufacturer that stated “the causal relation between lung damage and humidifier sterilizers is unclear.” Reckitt Benckiser Korea paid 250 million won ($213,780) to Seoul National University.

This week, prosecutors may summon a Hoseo University professor to ask him about accepting bribes and writing reports favorable to Reckitt Benckiser Korea.

BY JANG HYUK-JIN, LEE YU-JUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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