Business, Finance & Economics

Why are H&M clothing stitchers fainting in Cambodia?


A Cambodian worker sews at a factory in Sihanouk province, some 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh on September 9, 2009.



Poor ventiliation? Malnutrition? Or a bizarre "psychological phenomnenon" that only affects Cambodian factory workers?

All have been blamed for a rash of mass faintings in two different garment factories that supply H&M stores with cheap and chic clothing.

Last week, 200 garment workers keeled over inside a provincial Cambodian factory, according to Radio Free Asia. Days before, nearly 100 passed out. At an entirely different factory in the capital, Phnom Penh, another 40 fainted, reports the Phnom Penh Post.

All factories are operated by M&V International Manufacturing, which stitches clothing for H&M. Asked by the Phnom Penh Post to explain the faintings, an executive reportedly said the fainting is a "strange psychological phenomenon... In China, this kind of thing is unthinkable."

Others have a more direct explanation: malnutrition paired with stuffy conditions inside the factories.

Several laborers complained to Radio Free Asia of "hot and smelly" factory conditions. And a labor leader speaking to the Phnom Post said the wage of 30 cents per day, insufficient meals and expectations of overtime conspire to leave workers feeling faint.

"They don’t get enough sleep and they don’t get enough to eat so they are susceptible to fainting,” he said.

H&M and the International Labor Organization, along with the Cambodian government, are still investigating.