Our toxic futureThe Ministry of Environment belatedly admitted that it had ordered seven anti-odor spray and household cleaning products to be removed from shop shelves and recalled in January upon finding that they contained hazardous and even fatal chemical compounds. The anti-odor spray contained polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHMG), thought to be the cause of killing and sickening hundreds exposed to humidifier sterilizers. PHMG was even used after it was cited as the primary cause of lung ailments in patients who used the sterilizers.
The announcement is another wake-up call that we face health threats from everyday products. If not for the humidifier sterilizer incident, we may not have realized what everyday dangers we are exposed to. Consumers have become more aware and discreet following the scandal. More and more are looking for organic products.
The government and producers must change in order to prevent consumer casualties. Companies must not conceal a product’s components under the pretext of business confidentiality. They must list all the ingredients on the label to demonstrate that they have produced safe products. They should also continue with research and development to replace products with materials not harmful to humans and the environment.
Government agencies must strengthen efforts to protect consumers from hazardous materials. The already known materials must be banned and removed, while the undiscovered and less known ones must be re-evaluated for appropriate actions. The existing license law must be fixed so that it can work more effectively and protect consumer interests.
The government must also take stronger administrative punitive actions toward producers and distributors of products with hazardous materials, such as in stationery and toys that children use every day. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, one out of 10 newborns was born with some form of disability in Korea. Exposure to hazardous materials could have played a role. A society with low birthrates does not have a future if it cannot protect against chemicals in everyday products.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 18, Page 30