Investigate retailers now

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Investigate retailers now

Prosecutors investigating the cases of toxic humidifier sterilizers summoned the head of Yongma Industry, a producer of sterilizers that mimicked the best-selling Oxy product by using the toxic component polyhexamethylene (PHMG). The manufacturer of liquid shoe polish and window cleaning products supplied humidifier sterilizers through grocery retailers Lotte Mart and Homeplus.

Prosecutors have expanded their investigation to producers of similar products after indicting senior employees of Reckitt Benckiser, which sold the popular Oxy humidifier sterilizers. Grocery chains Lotte Mart and Homeplus are suspected of turning out copycat products after the Oxy sterilizers sold well. The companies released their own humidifier sterilizer brands each in 2006 and 2004. Lotte is being blamed for 41 cases of lung ailments, causing 16 deaths, and Homeplus for 28 cases, including 12 deaths.

Victims claim damages grew because companies skipped regulations in selling copycat products and were unregulated by authorities in the process. The companies issued an apology and promised compensation, fearing further prosecution. Prosecutors must thoroughly investigate all manufacturers and retailers to belatedly meet victims’ demands.

Other retailers also must be questioned. Aekyung, Shinsegae E-Mart and GS Retail also had similar products. Unlike Oxy, they made sterilizers based on CMIT (chloromethylisothiazolinone) and MIT, which are also inhalation toxicity agents. According to the Ministry of Education, these agents can cause harm to the skin and nervous system. To ease consumer jitters over all household products containing chemical toxicants, the government must conduct an expansive and thorough investigation, starting with the humidifier sterilizers. The economy, and society, will be hit with a confidence loss if this toxic scare in consumer products spreads.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 17, Page 30
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