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Be Cautious of What You Use in Your Air Diffuser and Humidifier

February 28, 2017

Do you ever wonder whether the products you use in your humidifiers or air diffusers are tested to be safe when inhaled?  You may want to start thinking now.


From 1996 to 2011, millions of bottles of Oxy humidifier sterilizers (Oxy HS), which was advertised as safe, were sold in South Korea.  The product was initially launched by Oxy, a company acquired by Reckitt Benckiser in 2001 to become Oxy RB.  However, what is safe on your skin was not when breathed into your lungs.  Thousands of people were either killed or injured by the product.  Many who didn’t die suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition resulted from the lungs being damaged continuously when breathing in the product.  Severe damage causes breathing difficulties or even death.  


Your lung is an organ that does not regenerate itself, so damage to it would be permanent. Often the damages are not evident until the lungs were substantially destroyed, as with the case of one of the victims, who died pregnant with her second child as a result of using Oxy HS daily that her husband bought in the previous year.  Her surviving child suffered from pulmonary fibrosis. 
What was surprising was that the company, nor the South Korean government, took any steps to ensure that the product was safe to be inhaled.  We are not talking about a small locally owned company. Reckitt Benckiser is a UK listed company specialising in health, hygiene and home products, and produces well-known brands such as Dettol, Strepsils and Durex.   It’s no doubt that the company has the resources to conduct thorough tests to ensure its product’s safety.  However, it was not done.  It is alarming that for over 10 years this product was used in households without any questions about its safety until it caused a health crisis.  Neither the company nor the government took product safety seriously.


In reaction to public pressure following the deaths and injury of victims including pregnant women and young children, the Korean Centre for Disease Control conducted some studies.  In August 2011, they finally announced to conclude that Oxy HS was the possible cause of the health crisis.  The following two-month long animal test confirmed the result.


However, Reckitt Benckiser did not accept responsibility for the death and injury of these victims until 2 May 2016, when a public apology was made by Ataur Safdar, head of its Korean Division.  During the apology, he was slapped by one of the angry protestors, amongst whom was a teenager who now has to depend on an oxygen tank to breathe.


Currently, there are no safety regulations in Hong Kong to require that household products for air diffusers or humidifiers be tested or certified.  There are many over the counter products claiming to be natural and harmless.  But most often than not these products were not scientifically tested or certified by globally recognised institutions.  Check for yourself.


Source (click on link for full article):


Equal Times: http://www.equaltimes.org/the-long-fight-for-justice-for?lang=en#.V7LmT5h96hc


Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/02/reckitt-benckiser-executive-punched-during-apology-for-disinfect/


The Guardian:  https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/02/reckitt-benckiser-exec-slapped-press-conference-south-korea​


Time: http://time.com/4338272/oxy-dehumidifier-disinfectant-reckitt-benckiser-korea/


BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36185549


Civil society organisations stage a protest on 31 May 2016 near the Oxy-Reckitt Benckiser headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. They called for a boycott of the company’s products and for better control of consumer products using hazardous chemicals.

(Se-Woong Koo) - Equal Times


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