Reckitt Benckiser ignored safety: employee

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Reckitt Benckiser ignored safety: employee

By Kim Se-jeong

An employee of the Korean office of Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of the humidifier disinfectant blamed for killing 103 people, told a local newspaper that the company's tight budget and disregard for safety resulted in the deaths.

Speaking with Hankyoreh, a Korean-language newspaper, the employee who didn't disclose his name said, "This scandal was brought up by excessive budget tightening and a disregard for safety."

The worker also said the company is responsible for 103 deaths and that "it should apologize and conduct an internal investigation as to what had caused the crisis."

The remarks came one day after the company offered to donate 5 billion won for the victims ― but, the offer fell short of the company taking responsibility for the deaths.

The employee added that the company chose to use a toxic chemical, known as PHMG, in 2001 because it had a cheap offer from SK Chemical and "failed to verify the safety of the chemical." By law, the Britain-based Reckitt Benckiser was obliged to study the chemical's toxicity carefully before manufacturing the chemical.

The humidifier disinfectant case is one of Korea's worst scandals involving consumer products ever.

The government has identified 530 victims, among whom 146 have died. The number is expected to rise as the government is conducting tests on hundreds of further claims.

The scandal broke out in August 2011. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced that the products were suspected of causing lung failure in several pregnant women and children, and recommended all 12 toxic products removed from store shelves.

Many said they had used Reckitt Benckiser's product, called Oxy.

Numerous damage suits and complaints have been filed by victims against manufacturers and the government.

A major breakthrough came this January when prosecutors took up the case. So far, it has questioned victims and activists, and this week it began summoning representatives of manufacturers, including Oxy Reckitt Benckiser.

The investigation pushed Lotte Mart and the British company to react. On Monday, Lotte said it will start compensation negotiations soon. On Thursday, Oxy Reckitt Benckiser said it would donate 5 billion won to the victims.

The prosecution has stayed tightlipped about its investigation, but news reports keep coming out.

A week ago, it was reported that the prosecution found evidence that Oxy had paid a scientist at Seoul National University in 2011 to produce a fraudulent report which became the foundation of its claims that there was no link between the chemicals used in the product and the deaths.

On Friday, KBS revealed the original report the SNU scientist had submitted to the company, showing that the chemical was deadly enough to harm people.

It was also reported that the British company had deleted consumer complaints about the side effects of its product posted on its website.

Victims are closely watching developments as they prepare to file a damage suit next month against the British company in a U.K. court.

By Kim Se-jeong

An employee of the Korean office of Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of the humidifier disinfectant blamed for killing 103 people, told a local newspaper that the company's tight budget and disregard for safety resulted in the deaths.

Speaking with Hankyoreh, a Korean-language newspaper, the employee who didn't disclose his name said, "This scandal was brought up by excessive budget tightening and a disregard for safety."

The worker also said the company is responsible for 103 deaths and that "it should apologize and conduct an internal investigation as to what had caused the crisis."

The remarks came one day after the company offered to donate 5 billion won for the victims ― but, the offer fell short of the company taking responsibility for the deaths.

The employee added that the company chose to use a toxic chemical, known as PHMG, in 2001 because it had a cheap offer from SK Chemical and "failed to verify the safety of the chemical." By law, the Britain-based Reckitt Benckiser was obliged to study the chemical's toxicity carefully before manufacturing the chemical.

The humidifier disinfectant case is one of Korea's worst scandals involving consumer products ever.

The government has identified 530 victims, among whom 146 have died. The number is expected to rise as the government is conducting tests on hundreds of further claims.

The scandal broke out in August 2011. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced that the products were suspected of causing lung failure in several pregnant women and children, and recommended all 12 toxic products removed from store shelves.

Many said they had used Reckitt Benckiser's product, called Oxy.

Numerous damage suits and complaints have been filed by victims against manufacturers and the government.

A major breakthrough came this January when prosecutors took up the case. So far, it has questioned victims and activists, and this week it began summoning representatives of manufacturers, including Oxy Reckitt Benckiser.

The investigation pushed Lotte Mart and the British company to react. On Monday, Lotte said it will start compensation negotiations soon. On Thursday, Oxy Reckitt Benckiser said it would donate 5 billion won to the victims.

The prosecution has stayed tightlipped about its investigation, but news reports keep coming out.

A week ago, it was reported that the prosecution found evidence that Oxy had paid a scientist at Seoul National University in 2011 to produce a fraudulent report which became the foundation of its claims that there was no link between the chemicals used in the product and the deaths.

On Friday, KBS revealed the original report the SNU scientist had submitted to the company, showing that the chemical was deadly enough to harm people.

It was also reported that the British company had deleted consumer complaints about the side effects of its product posted on its website.

Victims are closely watching developments as they prepare to file a damage suit next month against the British company in a U.K. court.

Kim Se-jeong skim@koreatimes.co.kr
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