Toothpaste From China Could Be Poisonous

Associated Press
Saturday, June 2, 2007

The government warned consumers yesterday to avoid using toothpaste made in China because it may contain a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze.

Out of caution, the Food and Drug Administration said, people should throw away toothpaste labeled as made in China. The FDA is concerned that these products may contain diethylene glycol.

The agency is not aware of any reports in the United States of poisoning from toothpaste, but it did find the antifreeze ingredient in a shipment at the U.S. border and at two retail stores: a Dollar Plus store in Miami and a Todo a Peso store in Puerto Rico.

Officials said they are primarily concerned about toothpaste sold at bargain retail outlets. The ingredient in question, called DEG, is used as a lower-cost sweetener and thickening agent. The highest concentration of the chemical found in toothpaste so far was between 3 and 4 percent.

"It does not belong in toothpaste, even in small concentrations," said the FDA's Deborah M. Autor.

The FDA increased its scrutiny of toothpaste made in China because of reports of contamination in several countries, including Panama. "Our estimate is that China makes up about $3.3 million of the $2 billion U.S. toothpaste market," Autor said.

The agency is particularly concerned about chronic exposure to DEG in children and in people with kidney or liver disease.

The agency also issued an import alert for dental products containing DEG. The alert means that toothpaste from China will be stopped at the border, Autor said.

The alert states that DEG has been improperly used in a variety of sedatives, syrups and cough medications worldwide. Most recently, a cough syrup containing DEG resulted in more than 40 deaths in Panama last September.

The alert says the agency found DEG in three products manufactured by Goldcredit International Trading in China. The products are Cooldent Fluoride, Cooldent Spearmint and Cooldent Ice.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company