More Chinese Toxic Chemicals

The UB Post reported that the General Intelligence Agency of Mongolia believes that there is a network of Chinese smuggling toxic chemicals into Ulaanbaatar and then from there out to the illegal (and possibly legal) mining operations. The chemicals are used to refine gold and a Chinese national was arrested in UB for having three tons of it in his possession.

Given the length of the border between Mongolia and China (over 4,000 kms) and given the remoteness of some areas of it, finding how it is smuggled in may be difficult. I can’t believe that too many legitimate mining concerns would be buying smuggled chemicals as they would normally have contracts for the supply of these chemicals in bulk. It would seem then that the major users of the chemicals are likely to be the illegal miners, the “ninja”. Solve the problem of the ninja and the smuggling of chemicals will be less attractive.

At the same time, I think China must start to take a more proactive role in protecting its borders from outgoing goods as much as from incoming ones.

More Bad Chinese Product

Seems the Chinese are hell-bent on destroying their own markets (unlike the Indians who have at least learned to listen to their markets and try and move forward with them). In the latest saga of Chinese firms cheating on the ingredients to increase bottom-line profits, the New Your Times reports again, this time on tainted toothpaste. Walt Bogdanich reports in Wider Sale Is Seen for Toothpaste Tainted in China on 28 June 28 2007, that “Roughly 900,000 tubes containing a poison have turned up in hospitals and prisons, according to health officials.”

This is on top of reports on CNN today about the Food and Drug Administration in the US increasing the testing levels on Chinese Farm Produced fish which has been exhibiting high levels of toxins in it.

The Chinese response to the toothpaste was noted in the New York Times as:

Diethylene glycol is often used in Chinese toothpaste in place of its more expensive chemical cousin glycerin. Chinese regulators have said that toothpaste with small amounts of diethylene glycol is not harmful and that international concern is unjustified.

OK, so next time your car’s cooling system freezes in winter, squeeze a tube of Chinese toothpaste in it, as that is what diethylene gycol is, anti-freeze.

I noted on the blog here before previous examples of the Chinese use of diethylene glycol. See the postings
F.D.A. Tracked Tainted Drugs, but Trail Went Cold in China on 18 June 2007 and 7 May 2007, From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine.

Really, this is a simple problem to overcome and I would have thought that the Chinese government had the wherewithal to take the necessary action. I am sure that rather than trying to clean up their acts to start with, the initial reactions from the Chinese will be that these are politically motivated problems and that the US is just trying to restrict imports from China. Of course, this overlooks the fact that many other countries have gone through the same pain exporting to the US, and Europe for that matter, and they have generally managed to overcome their problems by ensuring that the goods they shipped met local health and safety requirements.

F.D.A. Tracked Tainted Drugs, but Trail Went Cold in China

Back on May 7th this year I posted an entry on this blog about From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine which concerned the export of “a poisonous solvent sold by counterfeiters and mixed into drugs [which] has figured in mass poisonings around the world that killed thousands.” The blog entry originated from an article that came From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine by Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker and was published on 6 May 2007 in the New York Times.

The New York Times has followed that article up with another one today. This is titled D.A. Tracked Tainted Drugs, but Trail Went Cold in China and is by Walt Bogdanich and discusses

Two poisoning cases 10 years apart illustrate what happens when nations fail to police the global pipeline of drug ingredients.

The real worry about all this is that the counterfeiting affects the users, not by making the real product more expensive but rather by killing the user. Even more worrying is the attempt by China to preserve its reputation rather than enhance its reputation as a responsible member of the world.

The times noted:

The F.D.A.’s efforts to investigate the Haiti poisonings, documented in internal F.D.A. memorandums obtained by The New York Times, demonstrate not only the intransigence of Chinese officials, but also the same regulatory failings that allowed a virtually identical poisoning to occur 10 years later. The cases further illustrate what happens when nations fail to police the global pipeline of pharmaceutical ingredients.

Innocent people die but reputations must be preserved. I said it before and I will say it again, this is the worst kind of counterfeiting. It is a good tim, however, for China to show that it is a responsible global citizen, rather than trying to protect a reputation that is tainted already.

The Chinese talk the talk about cracking down on Piracy and Copying but a quick trip to Silk Street in Beijing shows that it really is only talking to talk. It’s time for the Chinese to put their boots on and start walking the walk.

From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

The New York Times noted in an article called From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine by Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker and published on 6 May 2007:

A poisonous solvent sold by counterfeiters and mixed into drugs has figured in mass poisonings around the world that killed thousands.

This is something that has concerned us in particular in Mongolia where Chinese counterfeit items turn up everywhere and where there is no real control over them. Medications in particular are a problem. We have purchased medicines only to find out later that the use by date on the medication was two years in the past.

The Times further noted about Panama where the latest wave of deaths appears to have occurred:

Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison [diethylene glycol] as 99.5 percent pure glycerin.

Beyond Panama and China, toxic syrup has caused mass poisonings in Haiti, Bangladesh, Argentina, Nigeria and twice in India.

Remember too the pet deaths in the US recently? The Times noted about these:

China is already being accused by United States authorities of exporting wheat gluten containing an industrial chemical, melamine, that ended up in pet food and livestock feed. The F.D.A. recently banned imports of Chinese-made wheat gluten after it was linked to pet deaths in the United States.

This is something to be concerned about in Mongolia, where much medicine must, for economic reasons only, be sourced from cheaper suppliers. China is one of those suppliers and the toxic syrup is used in cough and cold medications amongst other things.

In addition, on a more personal basis, friends of mine have taken locally sourced diabetes (this is referred to as “sugar disease” in Mongolia) medicine but their sugar levels have been all over the place. Their sugar levels have not been controlled. Replacing the locally sourced medications with the “same” drugs but purchased overseas has resulted in his sugar levels coming under control.

The medications taken were supposed to have been from German or Indonesian manufacturers but given the amount of counterfeit material that ends up in Mongolia, who can tell. Significantly, when the medications were sourced from suppliers that were known to provide reliable medicines, the sugar levels came under control – there was no change in the type of medicine taken, just the supplier.

This is the worst type of counterfeiting and one that governments should pursue vigorously, and the Chinese government in particular.