BEIJING (Reuters) - China has branded a U.S. warning against using its toothpaste as irresponsible, saying low levels of diethylene glycol (DEG) were not harmful.
"So far we have not received any report of death resulting from using the toothpaste. The U.S. handling (of this case) is neither scientific nor responsible," China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement posted on its Web site over the weekend.
"All the toothpaste exported to the United States had been registered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the States."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the warning on Friday after toothpaste containing DEG was detected in a shipment seized at the border...
Your body metabolizes diethylene glycol like it does ethylene glycol: it makes oxalic acid. Which, by itself might not be so bad... except it has this unique afinity for calcium, especially when concentrated.
Calcium oxalate crystalizes out in your dog's, or cat's or your kidney. It causes renal failure. You die slowly if you get enough of it and no care.
Of course, the people most likely to get sick and die from it are the oldest and sickest, particularly those with renal problems anyway.
It has been responsible for a number of mass poisonings:
* The most infamous incident was the 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster in the USA, in which 107 people died after taking sulfanilamide dissolved in diethylene glycol [Calvery HO, Klumpp TG (1939). "The toxicity for human beings of diethylene glycol with sulfanilamide". South Med J 32 (11): 1105-9]. This episode was the impetus for the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.