Diethylene glycol, a poisonous ingredient in some antifreeze, has been found in 6,000 tubes of toothpaste in Panama, and customs officials there said yesterday that the product appeared to have originated in China.
“Our preliminary information is that it came from China, but we don’t know that with certainty yet,” said Daniel Delgado Diamante, Panama’s director of customs. “We are still checking all the possible imports to see if there could be other shipments.”
Some of the toothpaste, which arrived several months ago in the free trade zone next to the Panama Canal, was re-exported to the Dominican Republic in seven shipments, customs officials said. A newspaper in Australia reported yesterday that one brand of the toothpaste had been found on supermarket shelves there and had been recalled.
Diethylene glycol is the same poison that the Panamanian government inadvertently mixed into cold medicine last year, killing at least 100 people. Records show that in that episode the poison, falsely labeled as glycerin, a harmless syrup, also originated in China.
There is no evidence that the tainted toothpaste is in the United States, according to American government officials.
Panamanian health officials said diethylene glycol had been found in two brands of toothpaste, labeled in English as Excel and Mr. Cool. The tubes contained diethylene glycol concentrations of between 1.7 percent and 4.6 percent, said Luis Martínez, a prosecutor who is looking into the shipments.
Health officials say they do not believe the toothpaste is harmful, because users spit it out after brushing, but they nonetheless took it out of circulation...
It's only harmful if you're one of the 100 ('at least') that died in Panama. American kidneys, it seems, are made of sterner stuff. Or maybe not: diethylene glycol poisoning is why the FDA was created in the first place.
But have no worry. The offical story is beginning to show those points of light we associate with Pravda. Why, only a couple of weeks ago it was this:
...Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine — with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. With the onset of the rainy season, investigators are racing to exhume as many potential victims as possible before bodies decompose even more.
Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin...
See? "...at least 100" sounds much better than "Families have reported 365 deaths". Which sounds far better that 260,000.