PHNOM PENH - Hundreds of workers have fainted at Cambodian factories after farmers sprayed insecticide on nearby rice fields, authorities said Friday, in the latest mass fainting episode to hit the country.
About 250 workers vomited and fainted on Friday morning at six garment factories at an economic zone one hour outside the capital Phnom Penh, according to a report circulated by Cheav Bunrith, a spokesman for the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), a government agency.
The report said the incident was caused by "poison from insecticide farmers sprayed at a rice paddy nearby" the factories. The victims were taken to health centres to recover. Another 119 workers fainted at a toy factory in the economic zone on Thursday after they inhaled the insecticide, according to the NSSF.
Mass faintings at Cambodian garment factories are relatively common. Earlier this month, a Cambodian garment worker died and 21 others were hospitalised after they fainted at a Chinese-owned factory. Around 700,000 factory workers form the backbone of the kingdom's multi-billion dollar textile industry, which supplies brands including Gap, Nike and H&M.
Safety worries are rife, with periodic mass fainting episodes often blamed on poor health, shoddy working conditions, bad ventilation or exposure to dangerous chemicals. Psychologists also say episodes of mass hysteria can be contagious, with crowds of people suddenly feeling ill once others start to show symptoms -- especially if they work in high-pressured environments.
Last month, Cambodia said it would raise the minimum monthly wage for garment workers to $140 from January, an increase of nearly 10 percent, but which fell short of union demands in an industry beset by strikes and protests.