May 04, 2016 13:12
The CEO of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser at a press conference on Monday apologized far too late for the deaths and illnesses of over 200 people who were exposed to germicide produced by the company.
"I would like to offer a heartfelt and sincere apology to all victims and their families who have suffered as a result of the humidifier disinfectant issue," Ata Safdar said.
Some 200 people became severely ill after contact with a humidifier sterilizer made by the company and scores died. The families of victims held more than 380 protests since the government admitted the health hazards posed by humidifier sterilizers more than four years ago.
But the company refused to meet with the victims and their families even once. Last month, it sent out a dryly worded press release promising to listen to the victims but mainly whining how unprepared it had been for the fallout.
At the press conference, Safdar again gave the impression that the company only acted at last because consumers threatened a boycott and prosecutors are circling the wagons.
The apology for the "issue" came far too late for consumers to feel any sense of vindication, and one family member of a victim duly slapped the CEO.
It is unclear how deeply the British headquarters was involved in developing the sterilizer. There are reports that researchers here planned to test the toxicity of the PHMG used in the sterilizer before Reckitt Benckiser bought Oxy, but headquarters refused.
But there is also evidence that the company tried to cover up data showing the hazards of the germicide once Reckitt Benckiser had taken over. Customers complained on the company's website of chest pains and breathing problems, but Oxy deleted the posts and it hid results of a test by Seoul National University that could have raised red flags.
Prosecutors must find out how much of a role Reckitt Benckiser's U.K. headquarters played in the scandal.
Oxy has promised with a "comprehensive" plan to compensate the victims but immediately narrowed the beneficiaries to the most serious cases as identified by the government. The company declined to elaborate how it intends to compensate the other victims.
Among 143 people who died from the effect of PHMG, 103 used the Oxy sterilizer. That is by any measure a massive death toll, and the company should be thinking of little else but how it can atone for the carnage.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com