Klean Nara sues KWEN over sanitary pad scare

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Klean Nara sues KWEN over sanitary pad scare

Sanitary goods manufacturer Klean Nara is taking legal action against a women’s advocacy group, claiming damages caused by the controversy regarding the volatile organic compound (VOC) content in sanitary pads.

It was reported Wednesday that Klean Nara sued top two officials at the Korean Women’s Environmental Network (KWEN) late January, requesting 300 million won ($279,000) in damages. The Seoul Central District Court will be ruling the case.

Klean Nara’s argument is that the advocacy group’s actions in raising the issue last year seriously tainted the image and sales of the company’s Lilian sanitary pads.

The company saw an operating loss of 24.8 billion won last year, the first time that it has ended the year in the red since 2007. Stock prices fell from nearly 6,000 won before the study to level out at a little above 4,000 won during the last five months. A class suit of over 5,300 consumers asking for compensation worth 3 million won per head is still ongoing.

Lilian sanitary pads were found to contain the highest amount of VOCs in a study of five different products conducted by KWEN last year. VOCs are substances that are naturally released from a product at room temperature, some of which can be harmful to the body.

As the issue caught steam, the company voluntarily pulled its products from the shelves and offered refunds in August. It restarted sales two months later after the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced that the VOC content in sanitary pads is safe.

Lilian was the first brand whose name was unveiled by Prof. Kim Man-goo of Kangwon National University, who took part in the experiment. At the time KWEN also announced case studies of 3,000 or so women who reported to have experienced changes to their menstrual cycle after using Lilian.

However, other big names like Yuhan Kimberly were later revealed to also be on the list due to an inspection from the Drug Safety Ministry, which sparked accusations that the advocacy group had unfairly targeted Lilian and its manufacturer Klean Nara.

One issue that overshadowed the original study is that it’s not easy to define the health effect of VOCs as they are not regulated by the government and there is no globally recognized standard way to assess their health effects.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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