Tainted Toothpaste Took an Unchecked Route
August 14, 2007
SpringFresh toothpaste, one of more than 12 Chinese-made toiletries that have been found to contain a toxic chemical used to make antifreeze, followed an unchecked route from a Chinese factory to the United States.
Between 2006 and 2007, 17 shipments of SpringFresh toothpaste were shipped from China to the U.S. ports of Tacoma or Seattle, according to research commissioned by the Associated Press. Importing business American Amenities received the shipments, some of which were slated for Georgia prisons.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for inspecting toothpaste, has seven full-time inspectors at the Seattle port and three in Tacoma, they did not test the toothpaste at that time.
It was only after seeing news reports about the antifreeze chemical diethylene glycol -- or DEG -- being found in toothpaste in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Australia that the FDA checked into things. After testing 140 samples of Chinese-made toothpastes from retailers, importers, and distributors, they found 38 percent contained DEG.
SpringFresh did not make the initial warning list issued by the FDA, however American Amenities did their own testing and found the chemical in some of their products. Later, FDA tests found one tube contained 6 percent DEG, one of the highest levels found in the United States.
Chinese Officials Allow up to 15.6 Percent DEG in Toothpaste
In the United States, only trace amounts of DEG are allowed in toothpaste. However, in China toothpaste may contain up to 15.6 percent DEG and still be considered safe.
The Chinese plant that manufactured SpringFresh substituted DEG for another, more expensive, sweetener in the toothpaste.
The FDA maintains that even the recalled toothpaste does not contain enough DEG to cause serious health problems, even in children. Using figures based on a 6-ounce tube of toothpaste that contained 3 percent DEG, they say a 150-pound adult would have to eat 175 tubes to receive a fatal dose; a child would have to eat 25 tubes.
In 1937, at least 105 people died in the United States after taking a medication that contained DEG. Just last year, at least 90 people died in Panama from cough syrup and other medication tainted with DEG.
About 60 percent of all U.S. consumer-product recalls are now related to Chinese goods.
Yahoo News August 9, 2007