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New Zealand warns of toxic Chinese toothpaste

/ Source: The Associated Press

New Zealand on Wednesday asked retailers and consumers to dispose of 11 brands of Chinese-made toothpaste after tests confirmed they contained toxic chemicals.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that a third of the Chinese-made toothpaste tested contained “unacceptable levels” of diethylene glycol.

Diethylene glycol is an industrial solvent used in paint and antifreeze and can cause kidney and liver damage.

Some of the brands could still be on sale although retailers had been warned in June to remove them from shop shelves while tests were conducted, the Health Ministry said.

Tests of toothpaste claiming health benefits are mandatory, but some of the dangerous brands had been either illegally imported or fell outside of the testing rules, a spokesman from the ministry said.

Chinese officials have said the world should have faith in the “made-in-China” label and have described the spate of product recalls as unfair, biased and politically motivated.

In July, China banned the use of diethylene glycol in toothpaste following a recall of Chinese-made products across the globe, including the United States, Spain, Singapore, Panama and several other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Panama says at least 100 people died after taking cough syrup containing diethylene glycol rather than the glycerine, which was supposed to have been used.

The chemical is similar to but much cheaper than glycerine, which is widely used as a syrup in medicines and toothpaste.

Last week, New Zealand launched an investigation into the safety of imported clothing after a local television program found woolen and cotton fabrics from China contained levels of formaldehyde up to 900 times the safety limit set by the World Health Organisation.

Formaldehyde, used by some clothing manufacturers to prevent mildew, can cause skin irritations, respiratory problems and even cancer at high levels.