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Ministry refutes legal loophole on regulating toxic detergent

Patients covered with masks wait to see doctor at a hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Patients covered with masks wait to see doctor at a hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Environment on Friday refuted a report claiming a legislative flaw allowed the manufacturing and distribution of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser’s toxic air conditioner detergents.

Oxy Reckitt Benckiser is the maker of one of the humidifier disinfectants blamed for the loss of 180 lives and lung damage to a thousand others. Its leading household brands include Oxy Ssak Ssak, Cherie and Powerclean.

According to local news outlet Eco TV’s report Tuesday, manufacturers can continue to make most products containing allegedly toxic substances, as the ministry’s restriction only involves 16 chemicals -- PHMG, PGH, vinyl chloride, lead and others.

The ministry refuted that a new standard has been added to specify the proportion and amount of each chemical, depending on its level of toxicity.

It also claimed to be monitoring the products that are classified as harmful, including detergents, air fresheners, deodorants and bleach. 

“While expanding the supervision to some 900 products, the ministry will implement market monitoring at least four times annually,” Hong Jeong-seop, official at the ministry’s chemicals policy division, told The Korea Herald.

Experts, however, voiced concerns over the leverage of the ministry’s action plans.

“I doubt the ministry can effectively regulate toxic products just by restricting and monitoring a listed number of chemicals,” said Choi Ye-yong, head of the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health.

“Without a full implementation test on all products, consumers will not be free from the danger of inhaling toxic substances.”

By Kim Da-sol (