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Hundreds of Garment Factory Workers Fainting in Cambodia

Nearly 350 workers fainted in four different garment factories across Cambodia last week, with more than 100 collapsing on Thursday alone.

According to Cambodia Daily, a Labor Ministry National Social Security Fund (NSSF) official said 52 workers at CN Prosperous Garment in Phnom Penh passed out around 7:30 a.m. Thursday, its second incident of the week after 95 workers inside the same factory fainted that Monday.

“It is due to personal problems of the workers themselves, who have weak health conditions. We have found no problems with the chemical substances or the building environment,” said Cheav Bunrith, the NSSF’s spokesperson, adding that there was “nothing strange technically” about the incident.

But it wasn’t the only one: Further mass faintings took place in the Quint Major Industrial factory in Kandal, where 89 female workers collapsed over a three-day period, while 29 workers at the Vonammy garment facility in Takeo fell unconscious Thursday, a day after 65 of its workers got sick en masse after allegedly eating tainted shrimp paste during lunch.

In addition, about 14 workers from Crystal Martin in Kandal fainted at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, after a short circuit in a nearby building set off a smoke alarm and sparked widespread panic, Bunrith said.

Cambodia’s $6.2 billion garment industry employs more than 700,000 workers and a slew of mass faintings take place each year during the hot season when factory temperatures soar above 100 degrees.

Now, labor union leaders are urging the country’s government to step up garment factory inspections, blaming the faintings on the stifling conditions caused by unsafe levels of chemical exposure, improper ventilation and exhaustion.