Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No Tooth Fairy Here...

First pet food, then cough syrup, now toothpaste? Can any product from China be trusted? Seems unlikely. Today The NY Times reports that Chinese authorities are investigating whether two companies from the coastal region of China exported poison-tainted toothpaste. Some of the tubes are showing up on store shelves in Latin America.

The poison, once again, is diethylene glycol (see previous post), an industrial solvent used in antifreeze and extremely toxic if ingested. DEG is known to cause kidney failure and paralysis. In the business world, diethylene glycol is a cheaper substitute for glycerin, which is used as a sweetening solvent. More than 100 people died as a result of the tainted cough syrup epidemic in Panama. US officials do not believe that any tainted products from China are in the US. Can they be so sure?

"On Health" is a column designed to present the latest controversies and newest information regarding your day-to-day health. Please feel free to contribute a topic by sending an email to nyemergencymedicine@gmail.com


OnYxHaWk said...

The Panamanian DEG epidemic was just one of many that have occurred over the years.

United States – 1937 (105 dead)
Capetown, S. frica – 1969 (7 dead)
India – 1986 (14 dead)
Nigeria – 1990 (47 dead)
Bangladesh – 1990-92 (263 dead)
Haiti – 1996 (30 dead)
Panama – 2006 (34+ dead)

To name a few of the epidemics reported in the medical literature. A fun fact is that the 1937 diethylene glycol (DEG) epidemic with the 'Elixir of Sulfanilamide' aided in the establishment of the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) as we know it today.

On an important sidebar, there HAVE been cases of the Panamanian medication making it into the United States. We have a documented and confirmed case that was seen at our center. Syrup was tested with GC.

Adam said...

Thanks for the info Onyxhawk - seems like this is an ongoing problem - the NY Times is following the case in the Business section. Seems like it deserves a bit more attention. I'm sure the story will find its way to the main section