On the trail of diethylene glycol
It’s happening. Again…
The masked killer/terrorist – diethlyene glycol – masquerading as glycerin.
The “Federal Detective Agency” (the FDA) is on the trail of the mystery of diethylene glycol, a product great for anti-freeze but not for human consumption.
1997 – Haiti
The trail was hot about 10 years ago, in 1997 when it was discovered that tainted glycerin from China used in medicinal children’s products and taking the lives of 88 Haitian children.
The mission of the detective work was to learning how diethylene glycol, a syrupy poison used in some antifreeze, ended up in Haitian fever medicine, because an official thought that this information might “prevent this tragedy from happening again”.
So far – no traces of records, closed factories, dead end, with no one fessing up nor accepting responsibility.
Diethylene glycol is almost always fatal when consumed by humans, typically leading to acute renal failure. The CDCs National Centre for Environmental Health reported that any formulations intended for oral consumption which may contain or are suspected of containing diethylene glycol should be immediately withdrawn from any possibility of human consumption and reserved for future analysis.
According to laboratory analysis performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, diethlyene glycol, an ingredient of automobile, i.e. anti-freeze, was found in two samples of liquid acetaminophen called “Afébril” and “Valodon” manufactured locally in Haiti. There is no known antidote.
One of the main reasons for FDA’s alarm bells to chime at that time was not necessarily because of the deaths of children Haiti, but, given the proximity of Haiti to the US, the FDA feared that such an event could occur in the US.
Fast forward to 2006 – Panama
About 100 people died in Panama as a result of antifreeze diethylene glycol in consumable products. China itself suffered about 10 deaths when consumers used diethlyene glycol tainted products.
At least five other mass poisonings were documented involving the killer/terrorist chemical in the past two decades — in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Argentina and twice in India.
In 2007, toothpaste manufactured in China and containing diethylene glycol was found in the United States and seven other countries, prompting tens of thousands of tubes to be recalled.
The chemical was also found in a batch of Chinese-made toothpaste exports in Nicaragua about two weeks ago, after which the FDA warned consumers to avoid toothpaste exported from China.
Recent information sustained this fear as toothpaste made in China was put on the FDA’s list of products recalled. And wait, there’s more…
Brands are being hijacked. For example, Colgate-labelled toothpaste made in South Africa is sold in five-ounce (100ml) tubes in discount stores in the US.
Officials from Colgate clarified that they do not make or sell toothpaste in that size tube nor do they import toothpaste into the US from South Africa.
While the government, companies and other agencies are doing their detective work, what can we do?
Consumers can first of all educate themselves about chemicals in consumer products and seek alternatives – for an alternative to toothpaste click here
Questionable products have been dumped, are being dumped, and will continue to be dumped overseas in record numbers and volume. Consumers abroad are at increased risk of consuming tainted, outdated products. Local watchdog groups need to be developed to alert the public to this phenomenon, which might be central to any debate on poverty.
Read up on labels, ingredients, be very aware of products manufactured anywhere. There seems to be no safe haven for the consumer as regards product integrity.