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Eduardo Arias and diethylene glycol

This is an absolutely fascinating profile of a gentleman from Panama, Eduardo Arias, who was the first person to realize there was diethylene glycol in toothpaste from China. His inspection of the ingredients and the eventual global recall of the related products affected nations around the world and most likely saved many lives. The Chinese government was forced to ban diethylene glycol from the manufacturing of toothpaste (which is a good thing as it is poisonous.)

The New York Times has video of Mr. Arias and the report: A Consumer Alerts the World

But one Saturday morning in May, Eduardo Arias did something that would reverberate across six continents. He read the label on a 59-cent tube of toothpaste. On it were two words that had been overlooked by government inspectors and health authorities in dozens of countries: diethylene glycol, the same sweet-tasting, poisonous ingredient in antifreeze that had been mixed into cold syrup here, killing or disabling at least 138 Panamanians last year.

Mr. Arias reported his discovery, setting off a worldwide hunt for tainted toothpaste that turned out to be manufactured in China. Health alerts have now been issued in 34 countries, from Vietnam to Kenya, from Tonga in the Pacific to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean. Canada found 24 contaminated brands and New Zealand found 16. Japan had 20 million tubes.

People around the world had been putting an ingredient of antifreeze in their mouths, and until Panama blew the whistle, no one seemed to know it.

The toothpaste scare helped galvanize global concerns about the quality of China’s exports in general, prompting the government there to promise to reform how food, medicine and consumer products are regulated. And other countries are re-examining how well they monitor imported products.

It’s fascinating and telling to me to see that no one looked at the ingredients of this item. I’m sure there are many other dangerous items on our store shelves because we don’t choose to inspect them closely enough and the people who are tasked to do this in our governments are most likely overwhelmed and understaffed.

The Everyman Who Exposed Tainted Toothpaste – New York Times