Fumes From Toilets Lead to Mass Faintings at Factory

More than 30 workers fainted at a garment factory in Kandal prov­ince over the past two days after inhaling noxious fumes circulated by a ventilation fan located near the facility’s toilets, an official said.

Pok Vanthat, who chairs the La­­­bor Ministry’s fainting re­search and prevention committee, said 12 workers fainted at the Sunstone Garment Enterprise factory in Kandal Stung district on Monday, while a further 19 passed out at the plant on Tuesday.

On Monday, he said, “a woman became weak and vomited from the smell, so workers carried her out of the factory,” he said. “Then, when other workers saw her, they started fainting, too.”

Following the second spate of faintings on Tuesday morning, Mr. Vanthat said, his team arrived to investigate, and ordered the factory to temporarily shut down. He said most of the factory’s 430 workers would return to work on Thursday, but that those who fainted will wait until Monday.

The workers who fainted were taken to a hospital in Takhmao City and all but four had been re­leased as of Tuesday, according to Mr. Vanthat.

He attributed the faintings to the fact that the factory’s ventilation fan and air conditioner were blowing out foul air from near the factory’s toilets.

“They built the ventilator too close to the toilet, so it sucks the bad smells from it. There weren’t any other chemicals involved, and you know how bad toilets can smell,” he said.

However, Thun Neang, director of the provincial labor department, said he believed the workers fainted after inhaling smoke from piles of fabric scraps being burned in­side the factory compound.

“The factory was burning pieces of cloth and [the management] told the workers to wear masks to protect their breathing, but the workers didn’t wear them,” he said.

Managers at the Sunstone factory could not be reached Tuesday.

According to Mr. Vanthat, 1,806 workers fainted at 32 factories across the country last year.

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