Thousands of women join lawsuit in health scare over sanitary pads

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2017-09-12 16:16 Updated : 2017-09-12 16:16
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Courtesy of Klean Nara]

Traditionally, South Korean women have not been fond of the limelight, but they are now coming forward for a rare class-action suit due to a widespread health scare over toxic chemicals contained in sanitary pads.

More than 4,600 women have joined the suit in three weeks since Klean Nara, a popular producer of hygienic products, recalled Lilian sanitary napkins on consumer complaints about negative side effects caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). according to Bubjungwon, a law firm in charge of the lawsuit.

VOCs, like benzene and formaldehyde, are organic chemicals that easily become vapors or gases. While not all VOCs are hazardous, a few can pose long-term health risks.

Bubjungwon said it has sent legal documents, signed by 4,611 women, to a Seoul court with a claim for damages worth some 12.4 billion won (10.9 million US dollars). The law firm expects more women to join the legal battle as it promised to ask the court to select an independent third party body for an objective and reliable investigation into sanitary pads.

Bowing to mounting concerns among women, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, a state watchdog, has launched an investigation into all 896 sanitary pads manufactured or imported by 56 firms to see if they used harmful chemicals. The investigation would be completed by the end of September.

The state body has been under fire for failing to take timely steps in its regular investigation of consumer goods in question, despite a study by civilian experts that Lilian products contained unusually high VOC contents, especially at their adhesive tapes.  Activist groups argued that there has been a loophole in safety checks.  Supermarkets and other retail outlets have removed Lilian sanitary pads from their shelves.