The Environment Ministry signed memorandums of understanding Wednesday with 59 household goods firms here to review the safety of biocides in their products amid a growing nationwide “chemical-phobia” following a humidifier disinfectant tragedy, which allegedly claimed more than 200 lives since 2011.
In a group briefing Wednesday attended by representatives of manufacturers, distributors and importers, the ministry said that it will first review products like deodorants and spray items of these companies, as they have high market share and can pose more health risks.
Companies that joined the move include LG Household & Health Care, Procter & Gamble, S. C. Johnson & Son, Aekyung, SK Planet, Daiso and more.
They either produce or distribute the 15 types of household products that come under the ministry’s direct supervision.
According to the revised Chemical Registration and Assessment Act that took effect last year, the ministry is responsible for overseeing the safety of 15 new types of household products including detergents, bleaches, fabric conditioners, coating agents, air fresheners, preservatives, insecticides, antiseptics, tattoo dyes, coloring bleaches, antifogging agents and antirust additives.
Under the ministry agenda, companies that signed MOUs are required to submit a list of the chemicals used in their products and the amount and purpose of those chemicals by June 25. After the ministry assesses the products’ safety, products with high health risks will immediately be ordered to be recalled or banned from sales. The results of assessments will also be made public.
For companies that did not wish to sign an MOU, the ministry still has sent an official letter to require them to hand in the list of substances, based on the current law. Those who do not turn in the list by the end of this month could be fined up to 10 million won ($8,660).
“This is just the beginning for the ministry to ensure the safety of household products, and we will complete a survey on all such products by the end of this year and expand into all biocide-containing industrial and electronic goods from next year,” said Vice Environment Minister Jeong Yeon-man.
Vice Environment Minister Jeong Yeon-man (left) attends a meeting with the toxic humidifier disinfectant victims in Seoul on June 7. (The Environment Ministry)
The ministry also plans to join hands with the Ministry of Public Safety and Security to host a nationwide campaign in August. The two ministries will designate a certain week in August as “chemical safety check week,” in order to increase public awareness on safety of household products and assuage public mistrust in chemical products.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org