Understanding Korea’s humidifier sanitiser case
Produced for the Korean market, Humidifier Santiser (HS) products were were intended to prevent bacterial growth in indoor humidifiers. In 2001, Reckitt (then RB) Group acquired a local Korean operating company (known as Oxy), which was one of a number of manufacturers of HS products. In 2011, when the Korean government announced that there was a correlation between HS exposure and lung injuries, Oxy voluntarily withdrew its HS product from the market.
Since 2016, Oxy has participated in all investigations to fully understand the HS issue and bring resolution to victims and their families. Oxy has expressed its sincere apologies to all victims of the HS tragedy in Korea and expressed its absolute determination to do the right thing for the victims and their families. Oxy has been consulting with and compensating Oxy HS lung injury victims and their families, and cooperating with the Korean government and the Social Disasters Commission.
Oxy was the first HS manufacturer to establish a comprehensive and transparent compensation plan, through which more than 418 Oxy HS Category 1 and 2 lung injury, and foetal victims or their families (i.e. those almost certain or highly likely to have had injuries caused by HS products), recognised by the Korean Government, have been compensated. Oxy has paid more than KRW 434 billion in compensation, including a contribution of KRW 137.9 billion to a Government-run HS Damage Relief Fund as of May 2023, as well as a KRW 5 billion contribution towards a Humanitarian Fund.
Oxy remains committed to finding an industry-wide and sustainable solution with other stakeholders involved in the HS issue, including the government, other manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.
Frequently asked questions
The products in question were humidifier sanitisers (HS), designed to prevent bacterial growth in indoor humidifiers. There were a number of different manufacturers that produced and sold HS products. Oxy Reckitt HS products were sold in Korea between 1996 and 2011.
Oxy Reckitt has apologised sincerely for the lung and respiratory injuries and deaths of Korean consumers that resulted from Oxy Reckitt’s HS product, and to our consumers and all members of Korean society for damaging their trust and confidence in us.
We acknowledge how tragic this situation is and what a difficult time this is for all those involved and their families. We continue to devote significant time and attention towards putting things right in Korea.
May 2, 2016 - Oxy Reckitt Apology (May 2, 2016)
CEO of Reckitt meets with victim and reiterates apology (May 6, 2016)
Reckitt global CEO apologises to the victims and families affected by Oxy HS product in Korea (Sept 21, 2016)
Oxy Reckitt acknowledges that the Oxy HS product caused enormous pain, grief and unbearable loss to victims and their families, and to Korean society.
Oxy Reckitt provides Oxy HS Category 1 and 2 Victims from Rounds 1 through 4 (those categorised by the Korean government in its four rounds of potential victim assessment as suffering, or having suffered, lung damage which was “almost certainly” (Category 1) or “highly possibly” (Category 2) a result of their use of Oxy R’s HS product) announced on or before 26 July 2019 with a remedy that reiterates its apology.
The Compensation Plans respect the sensitivities of individual victims and their families, provide fair compensation without delay, impose the minimum burden on claimants and provides access to independent advice and review.
- Oxy Reckitt’s Compensation Plans were developed based on consultations with Oxy HS victims in meetings, in groups and on individual occasions at the office of Oxy Reckitt or through home visits. Oxy Reckitt endeavored to listen to the voices and understand the pain and suffering of the victims, as well as to complete the Compensation Plans in a transparent way which reflected the views of the victims and their families.
- Compensation for Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims categorised in Rounds 1 through 4 (whose categorisation has been announced on or before 26 July 2019) is being provided as follows:
- Oxy Reckitt offers a lump compensatory sum in respect of mental distress (including child potential and family consolation), as well as compensation to reflect past expenses, lost income, certain legal expenses and interest. Additional amounts are available where there is more than one victim in a family.
- Compensation proposals for victims living with the ongoing effects of the Oxy HS product include a proposed provision to cover future HS related medical costs and care needs.
- 99.5% of Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Rounds 1 and 2 have registered to participate in the Compensation Plan, and 100% of those registered have been compensated either by Oxy Reckitt or by other HS manufacturers.
- Subsequently, 96% of Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Round 3 have registered to participate in the Compensation Plan, and 98.6% of those registered have been compensated either by Oxy Reckitt or by other HS manufacturers.
- Oxy Reckitt is currently processing the claims of those Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims from Round 4, announced on or before 26 July 2019. 100% of Round 4, Category 1 and 2 Oxy HS victims (announced on or before 26 July 2019) have registered to participate in the Compensation Plan, and 94.8% of those registered have been compensated either by Oxy Reckitt or by other HS manufacturers.
- Recognising the seriousness of the HS issue, and the fact that the process for resolving was likely to take time, in Spring 2014, Oxy Reckitt established a KRW 5 billion Humanitarian Fund to provide assistance to those who have suffered as a result of the HS issue.
- Additionally, on 8 September 2017, Oxy Reckitt paid KRW 67.4 billion in lump sum as its contribution to the HS Special Relief Fund under the HS Damage Relief Act.
- The Oxy Reckitt Compensation Plans for Oxy HS Category 1 and 2 victims from Rounds 1 to 4 whose categorisation was announced on or before 5 April 2019 have now closed for registration (although those whose categorisation was announced on 26 July 2019 can still register).
Seeking broader resolution for HS victims and their families
1994 - 2011
Product launch to recall
2012 - 2015
2016 - Present Day
Oxy Reckitt accepts responsibility and provides compensation