|Hazardous humidifier sterilizers were used at military camps here for about 12 years, and soldiers who served in the military during the period may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals, a state-run fact-finding body said, Monday. / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Hazardous humidifier sterilizers were used at military camps here for about 12 years, and soldiers who served in the military during the period may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals, a state-run fact-finding body said, Monday.
The Special Investigation Commission on Social Disasters, which has been investigating the scandal in which 1,421 people were officially recognized to have died from the toxic chemicals used in the sterilizers, also examined the disinfectant used on barracks following reports.
According to the commission, 12 units of the armed forces ― Army, Navy and Air Force ― and affiliated organizations of the Ministry of National Defense purchased over 800 humidifier sterilizer products between 2000 and 2011, until the toxicity of the products was discovered.
The Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital bought 290 containers of the product from 2007 to 2010 and a national army hospital in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province, purchased 112 containers in 2009 and 2011. The two hospitals used a product manufactured by Aekyung Industrial, whose former and incumbent senior officials are currently on trial for selling the product that contained chloromethylisothiazolinone (CMIT) and methylisothiazolinone (MIT).
A number of soldiers hospitalized at the facilities are believed to have been exposed to the toxic chemicals.
A man in his 30s was treated at the Yangju hospital from January to March in 2010 and was exposed to the toxic chemicals there. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and reported his health condition to the government in 2016, according to the commission.
In October 2008, an Air Force boot camp purchased the same product by Aekyung Industrial to use them on barracks, and there are testimonies that Oxy Reckitt Benckiser's humidifier disinfectant products, which used another toxic chemical, polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHMG), were used at other Air Force and Army units as well as their affiliated organizations.
Furthermore, the investigative commission predicts there could be more victims of the toxic disinfectant as some units could have bought the sterilizers with their own maintenance expenses, which do not require records of purchase.
Choi Ye-yong, vice chairman of the commission, pointed out that the military authorities should have launched an investigation into the sterilizer use on barracks when the toxicity of the disinfectants was revealed in 2011.
Regarding this, the defense ministry said it will conduct an internal investigation of all military units and take necessary measures.
"There have been no reports of harm to soldiers so far," a ministry official said, adding the ministry has banned the use of humidifier disinfectants since 2011. "But we confirmed that there were testimonies about damage from those who were discharged. We will take all the steps to find out the truth related to the case in a short period of time."