Hundreds of garment workers received medical treatment after fainting at the King Fashion garment factory in Dangkor district on Wednesday evening and yesterday morning.
More than 200 workers reportedly fainted at the factory in Choam Chao commune on Wednesday evening, followed by about 100 who collapsed the following morning, district police said.
At the Cambodian-Russian Friendship hospital, 28-year-old worker Doeun Sophana said she had found it difficult to breathe in the factory, becoming dizzy and vomiting before fainting yesterday morning.
“I think the workers fainted because of chemicals spread on the clothes,” she said.
El Sameal, a 22-year-old worker at from the factory who stayed on her feet and helped colleagues to the hospital, said an unpleasant smell had lingered in the factory for two days ahead of the faintings.
But Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said medical examinations of the workers had revealed that low blood-glucose levels had caused them to faint.
Hazardous chemicals, he added, are not used in GMAC factories.
“The workers that fainted last evening or yesterday were of course sent to a medical facility where they had blood tests and were certified fit, with the only observation being that their blood level was a bit on the low side,” he said.
He added that many of the workers who fainted yesterday morning had returned from the hospital the previous night.
Maeve Galvin, a communications officer at the International Labour Organisation, said yesterday that the cause of the faintings will remain unclear until the necessary inquiry is conducted.
“It just seems unusual for a mass number of people to faint from malnutrition,” she said, adding that it was “absolutely a cause for alarm” if malnutrition is indeed the reason for the faintings.
Mouen Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said yesterday that many workers are not properly trained in dealing with fabrics that have been treated with chemicals to prevent insects from destroying them.
“They had over 200 workers faint, and what the government should do is to clean up everything inside the factory,” Moeun Tola said.
“Even [if] we don’t know what is the cause, we have to clean up the environment before we allow them to go back to work.”
Pok Vanthat, director of the occupational health department at the Ministry of Labour, said yesterday that investigations into the case were ongoing. King Fashion representatives could not be reached for comment.