Mysterious Mass Faintings Continue at K Chhnang Factory

Fifty garment workers fainted yesterday after returning to a Kompong Chhnang factory, where a series of unexplained mass faintings over the weekend left workers hospitalized, union officials said yesterday.

At least two pregnant women suffered miscarriages this weekend shortly after fainting at M&V International Manufacturing Ltd in Kompong Chhnang city, according to Choup Sam Ol, factory representative for the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia.

Fifty workers collapsed yesterday at around 7:30 am after complaining of dizziness and shortness of breath, while 48 sought treatment at a referral hospital in Kompong Chhnang City, according to Ms Sam Ol.

“Most of the workers also fainted last week, because their health condition is still weak,” she said.

More than 140 workers fainted after a power cut at the factory on Friday. Nearly 160 workers, many of whom had fainted the day before, passed out again on Saturday after another power cut.

Meas Sopheap, 30, who had been in the first trimester of a pregnancy, lost her unborn child after fainting on Friday afternoon.

“I wanted to leave and go home because my three other children are alone but the doctors say my health is still weak,” she said by telephone from a hospital yesterday, adding that the company has offered to pay her medical bills.

Work was still going on at the factory yesterday, according to Peou Sytha, head of the provincial labor department.

“All the workers are working as normal, except the ones who fainted…. They need time to rest,” he said, though he said only 42 workers were affected yesterday.

Officials were at a loss to explain the fainting spells yesterday.

“Five provincial environment department officials went to investigate in the factory [yesterday] but the results have not been revealed yet. Factory doctors sent the workers’ blood [to be analyzed] but the results of the blood tests are fine,” said Mr Sytha.

The International Labor Organization’s Better Factories project conducts annual inspections of exporting garment factories, including M&V, according to Better Factories Chief Technical Adviser Tuomo Poutiainen. As far as he was aware the ILO had not uncovered any environmental issues at the factory that could account for the fainting, he said.

He said that, while there were many factors that could cause bouts of fainting–including poor ventilation, possible chemical exposure and the phenomenon of mass hysteria, where the sight of one person fainting prompts others to follow suit–there did not seem to be any underlying trend among factories here.

“We have done a couple of assessments in factories where this kind of thing has occurred but it seems there is no one reason…. We saw different reasons at different factories,” he said.


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