Oxy Co. Ltd, a local company in Korea, launched a Humidifier Sanitizer (HS) product in 1996. It was one of a number of companies involved in manufacturing HS products.
In March 2001, RB acquired Oxy Co. Ltd to become Oxy RB. In 2011, the Korean Centre for Disease Control (KCDC) released an announcement on the results of a study which suggested a link between HS products and reported lung and respiratory injuries and deaths. Following the KCDC announcement, Oxy RB began to voluntarily withdraw its HS product from the market. Oxy RB has since participated in all investigations to understand fully the HS issue and bring resolution to HS victims and their families.
Oxy RB has expressed its sincere apologies to all victims of the HS tragedy in Korea and stated absolutely its determination to do the right thing for the victims and their families.
Consumer safety remains Oxy RB’s number one priority and we have taken steps to review our safety and escalation processes so that something like this will never happen again.
Product launch to recall
Yukong (now SK Chemicals) developed the first humidifier sanitizer (HS) product and launched advertisement and sales
Oxy Co Ltd, an affiliate of OCI, released its HS product, “Humidifier Guard”
Oxy changed the active ingredient in Humidifier Guard to PHMG-P (Polyhexamethyleneguanidine Phosphate)
A number of manufacturers and private label retailers supplied the Korean market with HS products
RB acquired Oxy Co. Ltd
The Korean Centre for Disease Control (KCDC) released its first public announcement on the results of its epidemiology study. It announced that HS products may be the cause of reported lung injuries and recommended against the use or sale of the products. Oxy RB began a voluntary withdrawal of its Humidifier Guard HS product
The KCDC announced the interim results of their animal inhalation tests finding a causal link between HS products and the reported lung injuries and strongly recommending against their use
The Korean government ordered a recall of all HS products
The KCDC announced that HS products containing PHMG-P and PGH had caused lung fibrosis
The Korean Fair Trade Commission ruled that Oxy RB, Homeplus, and Cefu violated the False Labelling & Advertising Act. Oxy RB’s appeal was later dismissed by the High Court in August 2014 and by the Supreme Court in December 2014
The KFTC filed a criminal complaint for false advertising/mislabelling against Oxy RB and others with the Prosecutor’s Office
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy delegated the management of everyday chemical products to the Ministry of Environment (MoE)
MoE announced relief plans for HS victims
Oxy RB’s CEO appeared at a National Assembly hearing to express his sincere regret at the pain and suffering of the victims and at failing to reach out sooner. Oxy RB announced a Humanitarian Fund for HS victims
Announcement of Round (Rd) 1 results of KCDC’s review of reported lung injuries and deaths from HS products; 361 cases reported, 161 classified as “almost certainly” (Category 1) or “highly possibly” (Category 2) a result of use of HS products
Oxy RB established the Humanitarian Fund of KRW 5 billion for HS-related patients in cooperation with the MoE and Korean Environmental Preservation Association
Oxy RB took part in court-mediated and direct settlements with many of the Category (Cat) 1 & 2 victims who brought cases to court
Announcement of the Round 2 investigation results by the MoE; 169 cases reported, 49 of which were classified as Cat 1 or 2 victims. Four victims were reclassified to Cat 1 or 2 from Round 1
HS victims’ groups visited UK to protest at RB Group’s offices
United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes made an official country visit to Korea which included meeting HS victims
KCDC Round 3 application deadline; 752 additional cases reported
Oxy RB accepted responsibility and provides compensation
Lotte Mart offered an apology to its HS consumers and pledged to form an organization to provide compensation, announcing it was making available KRW 10 billion for this
Oxy RB apologized for the disappointment caused to the victims and their families due to the lack of an appropriate response and communication related to the HS issue
MoE announced that it planned to
• resume accepting new applications for categorisation;
• complete Round 3 of its review by the end of 2017, if not earlier; and
• study the health effects of HS products other than lung damage
Homeplus offered an apology and pledged to form an independent organization for compensation
Oxy RB’s CEO in Korea apologized on behalf of Oxy RB to all victims who suffered lung injury as a result of the Humidifier Guard and their families, and accepted responsibility for the role the Oxy RB HS product played in the tragedy and the delay in providing an adequate remedy. He announced that Oxy RB would develop a compensation plan for Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2 and that it would consult with them on this
RB Group’s CEO apologized for the HS issue at the Group’s Annual General Meeting and met with the father of a victim to apologise personally for the role the Oxy RB product played in the tragedy
Oxy RB reiterated its apology at a victims’ meeting in Daejeon and commenced consultations with Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2 and their families on the form of a Compensation Plan
The Prosecutor’s Office referred a criminal case of false labelling to the court for hearing, together with cases against individual managers and former managers at Oxy RB and other HS manufacturers for false labelling, criminal negligence and criminal fraud
UN Working Group visited Korea to observe the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Oxy RB held its second consultation meeting with Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2 and their families on a Compensation Plan in Seoul
Oxy RB holds the third and final consultation meeting with Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2 and their families in Seoul
South Korea’s National Assembly launched HS Special Investigation Committee whose remit was to consider the actions of Government organisations and relevant businesses in relation to the HS issue
Oxy RB announced the Compensation Plan for Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2
Oxy RB’s Compensation Plan opens for registration from Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2
Special Rapporteur of the United Nations published his report on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes covering HS issue
The Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute (KEITI) announced that 165 out of the 752 Round 3 applicants had been assessed. Of these, 35 applicants were categorized as Category 1 or 2. Of them, 31 indicated that they had used the Oxy RB product either on its own or in conjunction with other HS products
National Assembly Special Committee (NASC) conducted formal hearings to review the role of HS manufacturers, raw material suppliers, retailers and government agencies responsible for regulation and supervision of the manufacture of household products
RB Global CEO Kapoor met with NASC and families of victims at UK HQ to listen to their pain and officially apologize
To drive transparency, Oxy RB is the first home products company in Korea to disclose all its product ingredients on its website (www.oxyrb.co.kr)
Oxy RB CEO appeared at the criminal court hearing relating to mislabeling on behalf of the company. Oxy RB did not contest the prosecution. He said, “I will never forget the words from a victim that you bury your lost child in your heart”. He explained that Oxy RB has accepted its responsibility for the lung injuries the Humidifier Guard had caused, has provided a compensation scheme and is working with others, including HS manufacturers and raw material suppliers, to provide practical support for victims
The National Assembly Environment and Labour Committee (ELC) debated the proposed HS Special Law, which required HS manufacturers and suppliers to contribute KRW 125 billion for special relief for Cat. 3&4 The proposed HS Special Law was then transferred in the form approved by the ELC to the Legal and Judicial Committee of the National Assembly, prior to any vote by the NA as a whole
86% of Category 1 and 2 victims from Rounds 1 and 2 have registered for Oxy RB’s Compensation Plan (This percentage excludes four cases already compensated by Lotte Mart)
Judgment was given in Korean criminal proceedings. Oxy RB did not contest the Prosecutors’ case that it violated the Fair Labelling & Advertising Act. Oxy RB was found guilty of this offence, as part of a series of criminal judgments involving suppliers and OEM manufacturers, and some of their managers or former managers. Two current employees and two former employees of Oxy RB were found guilty of charges of mislabelling and criminal negligence. Employees of other suppliers received similar verdicts
The Ministry of Environment and Health Committee (EHC) announced that a further 188 of the 752 Round 3 applicants had been assessed. Of these, 18 applicants were categorised as Category 1 and 2 victims. All of those categorised as Category 1 and 2 were found to have used the Oxy RB product either on its own or in conjunction with other HS products.
The HS Damage Relief Act was passed by the National Assembly. The new law established an HS Damage Relief Committee under the MoE and a special relief account of KRW 125 billion to be operated by KEITI. The detail as to the precise functions and operations of both will be set out in subsidiary legislation. The special relief account will be funded by a contribution of KRW 25 billion from the ingredient manufacturer, and contributions from companies involved in the HS issue in accordance with the volume of their HS sales and the ratio of product use among those seeking categorization as victims. [Oxy RB’s contribution is estimated to be about KRW 70 billion.]
Registration for Oxy RB’s Compensation Plan for Category 1 and 2 victims from Rounds 1 and 2 closes. 99% of eligible victims have registered for compensation
The Ministry of Environment announced that a further 99 of the 752 Round 3 applicants had been assessed. Of these, 3 applicants were categorised as Category 1 and 2 victims, two of which were found to have used the Oxy RB product either on its own or in conjunction with other HS products.
Oxy RB commenced consultations in Seoul with Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Round 3 whose categorisation was announced on or before March 27, 2017 on the form of a Compensation Plan.
Oxy RB held its second consultation meeting in Seoul with Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Round 3 whose categorisation was announced on or before March 27, 2017 on the form of a Compensation Plan
Oxy RB launched its Compensation Plan for Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Round 3 whose categorisation was announced on or before March 27, 2017 and opened it for registration.
Oxy RB paid KRW 67.4 billion in lump sum for the contribution to the HS relief fund on September 8, 2017 under the HS Special Law.
Oxy RB extended its Compensation Process to Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Round 3 whose categorisation has been announced on or before August 10, 2017.
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