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Steriliser blamed for mysterious South Korean deaths

22 November, 2011
Pulmonary fibrosis – South Korea. ProMED-mail. Nov. 11, 2011.South Korean Health and Welfare Ministry Disease Control Division confirmed on 4 Nov 2011 that sterilizing agents added to humidifiers were the cause of a lung disease cluster and strongly urged people not use such agents with humidifiers. [The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — KCDC] reported that investigations had shown that antiseptics used with humidifiers were highly associated with a number of lung injury cases. Therefore, in September 2011, they conducted experiments using mice (rats?), allowing experimental animals to inhale antiseptics from humidifiers. Necropsy of these animals showed pulmonary fibrosis similar to those found in humans.
Steriliser blamed for mysterious South Korean deaths
Humidificador ultrasónico Vitek
An expert panel will convene shortly to discuss the association between these antiseptics and disease. Once the association has been confirmed, sales of the antiseptics for humidifiers will be banned. Because humidifier use is increased in the fall and winter, Health and Welfare Ministry strongly urges to discontinue the sale and use of these agents.

The report pointed out that a cluster of lung disease of unknown cause was reported in April 2011, causing panic. Disease Control Division reported in August 2011 that antiseptics or cleaners for humidifiers were likely to be associated with lung disease.

Korean news reports that since August 2011, antiseptics for humidifiers have been taken off the shelves. It is hard to find these agents on the market now.

Communicated by: ProMED-mail Rapporteur Angela Huang
Date: Sun 6 Nov 2011
Source: The Liberty Times [edited] [in Korean, trans., edited]. See: http://goo.gl/goioc

Steriliser blamed for mysterious South Korean deaths

A sterilising agent for home humidifiers probably caused the mysterious deaths of 4 pregnant women, an official with a South Korean health agency said Thursday [1 Sep 2011].

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) began investigating after 28 cases of lung disease with unknown causes were reported since 2004, many of them this year [2011] and involving pregnant women, 4 of whom died earlier this year.

The agency said tests showed that a harmful substance in a steriliser — used by all the patients in their humidifiers — could seriously damage lung cells.

Tests showed that those who added the steriliser to their humidifiers were 47.3 times more likely to get lung damage than those who did not, KCDC said in a statement.

"The odds ratio of 47.3, clinically speaking, is exceptionally high and rare," Youn Seung-Ki, a senior KCDC official, told AFP on Thursday [1 Sep 2011].

KCDC refused to identify the harmful substance in the steriliser, which it said was widely used in other goods like shampoo and cosmetics, saying it could not verify whether the substance was also harmful through skin contact.

"We still need more tests to reach a concrete final conclusion. But we have decided, as a precaution, to urge people against using humidifier steriliser and companies from selling the products," it said in a statement.

Major steriliser producers had agreed to suspend sales until the final result of the agency’s probe comes out in about 3 months, Youn said.

"The patients added the steriliser whenever they replaced water in the humidifiers and used a whole bottle (of steriliser) a month on average," KCDC said.

South Korean households often use humidifiers during the long, cold, and dry winter.

The agency said pregnant women spend more time resting at home, increasing their exposure to air from the humidifiers. Women also inhale about 30 percent more air after childbirth, meaning they could be more at risk at that time.

About 600 000 units of humidifier steriliser worth 2 billion won (USD 1.8 million) are sold every year in South Korea. Makers of the product say it helps remove bacteria and dirt from the water before it is released into the air.

— Communicated by: ProMED-mail
Date: Thu 1 Sep 2011 Source: Google, Agence France-Presse (AFP) report [edited]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of South Korea can be seen at http://healthmap.org/r/1qmT. – Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]
[An antiseptic, or disinfectant for humidifiers in this case must be of some chemical component. The article in [2] mentions that the substance is used in shampoos and cosmetics. The most frequent compound that I can think of is sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS or NaDS), sodium laurilsulfate, or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). It is generally used as an agent for lather, as in soap, or as a degreaser for components such as engine cleaners. They are often mixed with coconut or palm oils or other cheap oils for mixture in various domestic products.

SLS has been effectively used as a microbicide. It is believed to be effective against a number of viruses, including HIV.

Please understand, I am NOT saying this is the substance being used in these humidifiers, I am only suggesting it as a possibility based on information in the article.

We would appreciate some information regarding the mystery substance in the cleaner, or antiseptic used in these humidifiers. – Mod.TG]


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