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China IS poisoning the World... Literally

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In a masterful piece of investigative reporting, the New York Times describes today how unregulated Chinese chemical companies have shipped tons of deadly diethylene glycol (anti-freeze) around the world mislabeled as food/pharmaceutical grade glycerin, killing thousands of people in at least seven countries.

In fact, by the time the diethylene glycol wound up in countries ranging from Panama to India and Bangladesh, the manufacturer's name had long been removed from the containers, and falsified test results had been added stating that the contents were 99.5% pure glycerin. Instead, the drums contained almost pure diethylene glycol with several contaminants.

In at least one drug poisoning incident in Bangladesh, doctors estimate that thousands, or even tens of thousands of people were killed after taking a fever medication made with diethylene glycol rather than glycerin. In a more recent incident in Panama, hundreds of people were killed after drinking cough syrup made with diethylene glycol.

The article at the New York Times is very well written and I recommend that everyone read it carefully, and then think about how many foods and pharmaceuticals they and their families consume without any idea where the ingredients in those products came from. The USDA and FDA currently only test a minuscule fraction of the foods and drugs sold in the US.

China is giving us a firsthand look at what happens when America exports unregulated capitalism to the rest of the world. Republicans and Libertarians alike believe that capitalism can be self-regulating in the absence of government oversight. China and other developing capitalist countries prove this notion completely false.

Republicans and Libertarians want to further deregulate American industry while simultaneously dismantling oversight agencies such as the FDA and the USDA. If they can't eliminate these agencies, they will de-fund them and staff them with corporate cronies.

It is likely that the recent revelations about tainted pet food and now tainted pharmaceuticals are just the tip of the iceberg. The diethylene glycol contamination from China has been going on since at least 1992 without being disclosed to the general public. It seems very likely that many more such incidences of food and drug contamination have gone unreported as yet.

It is also interesting to note that glycerin is a common ingredient in certain pet foods and that diethylene glycol causes kidney failure as in the case of the recent pet poisonings. It would be useful, I think, for the FDA to test tainted pet foods for the presence of this toxic solvent.

Republicans and Libertarians beware of what you wish for, you just might just reap the “benefits” of unregulated capitalism in your child’s next bottle of cough syrup.
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John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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