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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mom’s Death Blamed on Humidifier Cleaner

(CN) - A woman died from inhaling toxic fumes from a humidifier cleanser that had already been banned in Korea for killing at least one person, her children claim in court.

Charles and Thomas An sued SK Chemicals, and Kim's Home Center on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles Superior Court, for the wrongful death of their mother, Sunja An. Defendants include the South Korea-based SK and two of its U.S. branches.

Sunja An began buying the Aekyung Humidifier Cleaning Agent, made by SK Chemicals, at Kim's Home Center in 2005 to maintain and clean her humidifier, her children says.

The cleaning process "consisted of pouring the product into the humidifier, letting it warm up, percolate, turn into vapor, and evaporate together with the water in the humidifier. In the process, the chemical product become airborne, saturated the air in Sunja's room, and was being inhaled by Sunja," the complaint states.

An, who never smoked, used the humidifier and cleanser almost daily during the winter and less frequently during the summer, her children say. In 2008, she developed a cough that worsened over time and led to difficulty in breathing.

She was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis by a doctor at UCLA. On Feb. 11, 2013, she died from fibrosis and respiratory depression, her children say.

They say her conditions were caused by long-term and frequent use of the cleaning agent, which "contained toxic chemicals."

They claim SK Chemical knew the product was defective because it had caused injury and a death in Korea in 2008. After a government investigation, the product was banned in Korea in April 2011, according to the complaint.

"Defendants kept distributing and selling the product in the United States even after they were actually aware that the product was defective and caused injury and after the product was banned in Korea," the complaint states.

An's children seek punitive damages for wrongful death, gross negligence and product liability.

They are represented by Peter Rasla, of Irvine.

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